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What you need to know about driving in Norway

What you need to know about driving in Norway
Photo: Bruno van der Kraan on Unsplash
Driving in a new country can be daunting. This is especially true in Norway. New laws, new traffic signs, and harsh weather conditions are all contributing factors to a foreigner's uncertainty behind the wheel. Here's what you need to know.

Norway has taken strong measures to ensure safety while in a vehicle and it can be helpful to know a few key points before getting behind the wheel.

It's also worth noting that owning a car in Norway is expensive.

On account of the high cost for vehicles, toll payments, service requirements, and expensive driver's education, driving in Norway is a luxury.

Generally, Norwegian drivers are known to be on the safer side. This is due to slower speed limits, higher penalty fines, extra precautions needed to be taken during the winter, and a general understanding that driving is a serious responsibility.

Rules you need to know

According to national road authority The Norwegian Public Roads Administration (Statens vegvesen, NPRA), here are a few driving rules that are particular to Norway.

  • If you are originally from the EU/EEA countries, your license from your home country is valid and can be exchanged for a Norwegian driving licence without taking any test. If you are originally from outside the EU/EEA countries, then it can be more of a challenge to get a Norwegian driving licence. The sooner you look into your home country's driving agreements, the better. There are time limits (starting from when you enter the country) for exchanging your licence to a Norwegian one. If you wait too long then it could mean having to start the whole driver's education process from the beginning. 
  • It is required by law to have a reflector vest within arm's reach of the driver in every vehicle. This is in case of any unexpected stops beside the road and you must leave the vehicle for some reason while still being close to the roadway.
  • Driving with a blood alcohol level above 0.2 percent is illegal. Neighbouring country, Sweden, has the same rule. The amount you can drink is considerably more strict than in countries like Great Britain and The United States. Both of which allow drivers to have a legal blood alcohol limit of 0.8 percent.
  • Be aware of the roads entering a main road from the right. Norway is unlike most other countries when oftentimes, drivers entering a main road from the right have the right of way.

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  • Changing over to winter tyres is a must in Norway. It is the car owner’s responsibility to make sure winter tyres are on the vehicle before winter conditions threaten a driver's safety. However, it is mandatory for tyres with a tread depth of 3mm be used between November 1st and the Sunday after Easter Monday. It may sound peculiar to make it a rule to have winter tyres on after a holiday that changes in date. This is because Easter is a time where roads are densely populated with Norwegians heading to their cabins or on holiday. 

Strict penalties

Breaking Norway’s traffic laws can be costly. As noted on the Norwegian Police website, Norway has many road traffic laws and regulations and the police decide which of them applies in each individual situation.

Here are some of the fines which can be incurred for breaking traffic laws.

  • Failure to stop at a red light can result in a fine of 6,800 kroner, while not giving way when required can also set you back that amount. You can also be fined 5,500 kroner for driving unlawfully in a public transport lane.
  • Talking on a mobile phone without using the hands free technology costs 1,700 kroner in fines for a first time offender. This will also be marked as an offence on your permanent traffic record.
  • Driving without a licence has been reported to be punishable with a fine of up to a whopping 10,000 kroner.

 

AFP

  • Driving over the speed limit is punished depending on how fast you were going. As little as 5 km/h over the speed limit can cost an 800 kroner fine. Breaching the speed limit by more than 25 km/h can result in a driving ban.
  • Cameras used to check a vehicle's speed are placed all around Norwegian roads. They are especially popular in densely driven areas. It would be wrong to assume you will avoid a speeding ticket if you slow down right before the camera takes an incriminating photo. In some cases, two cameras set up a distance apart from each other will measure the vehicle's speed by timing how long it takes the vehicle to get from the first camera to the second.

Beware the elk

While driving in Norway is considered to be safe there are certain hazards drivers need to be aware of and one of them is the wildlife.

The story of the Norwegian driver who crashed into a bear to avoid hitting an elk tells you everything you need to know about the wildlife hazards in Norway, even if they are rare.

AFP

According to the Nordic visitor website drivers in in rural forested areas should “be aware of elk/moose or deer near the roadsides as they may suddenly jump into traffic, especially during dusk and dawn.”

In northern regions, reindeer (often in groups) may also wander into the road. There are usually warning signs in areas where animals are known to make frequent crossings.

READ ALSO: Elk or moose?

Drivers training 

As explained by the Norwegian Public Roads Administration, here are some of the necessary hoops to jump through in order to attain a Norwegian driving license.

  • Before beginning driving lessons, you will have to submit a doctor's approved eyesight certificate. It may also be necessary to submit a health certificate from a doctor as well.
  • Along with meeting the number of required driving hours with a certified instructor, new drivers must also pass practical and written driving exams before getting their license.
  • Glattkjøring, or 'slippery driving', is mandatory under the Norwegian driver’s education program. It is a driving simulation administered on a special arena that has been set up for driving students to practice the correct reactions while driving on icy roads.
  • All drivers who are undergoing training must have a visible L-Plate on the back of the vehicle's window. You can download one and print it out, or buy one at selected gas stations.

If you are interested in getting your license or driving in Norway, it can be helpful to look at NPRA's website.

Useful Norwegian words to know for driving

Vikeplikt – Duty to give way or yield. The vikeplikt sign is an upside down red triangle telling the driver they must wait for the road they’re entering to be clear.

Fartsgrense – Speed limit. The speed limit sign is a read circle with the speed limit number found inside. Norway relies heavily on road signs as a way to communicate with drivers and speed limit signs pop up often on windy mountainous roads.

Isete vei – Icy road. If you see a sign with these words, or hear it on the radio, pay extra attention to the current road conditions you are driving on.

by Agnes Erickson

 

 


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