Expats new to driving in the Netherlands need to be aware of what you must (and must not) do on Dutch roads. Here is an overview of key points including car accidents, speed limits and transporting children.
Rules and Regulations
Here are the most important rules for driving in the Netherlands:
- Drive on the right, overtake on the left
- 18 years is the legal minimum age to drive a car unsupervised (or ride a motorbike with an engine capacity over 125cc)
- 16 is the legal minimum age to ride a scooter or moped (‘bromfiets’)
- Motorcycle and trike drivers (and any passengers) must wear crash helmets
- It is compulsory to carry a driving licence, car registration papers and insurance documents in the car . Netherlands, EU and International Driving Licences are acceptable (unless the person is from outside the EU and been a resident in Holland for more than 180 days, in which case they must be in possession of a Dutch driving license).
- Mobiles/cellphones (external link to Dutch government website) may only be used when driving if it is connected to a hands-free system. Even holding a mobile in a moving vehicle is considered an offence. This applies to all vehicles, including automobiles, micro cars, motorcycles and mopeds
- Seat belts are compulsory for the driver as well as all passengers, whether they be in the front or back seat
- Children younger than 18 and shorter than 1.35m must sit in an approved car seat or raised, booster seat
- High beam headlights are not to be used in built-up areas
- Drivers in the Netherlands need to pay particular attention to cyclists sharing the road, especially at intersections
- Unless otherwise signposted, vehicles coming from the right have priority
- Buses have priority when pulling out from a bus stop
- Trams have priority except where signposted at major junctions
The Ministry of Infrastructure and the Environment published a comprehensive guide (in English) on the Road Traffic Signs and Regulations in the Netherlands. It answers all questions on rules for drivers and cyclists, signs, hand signals by traffic police, parking rules and much more.
Unlike other countries that calculate fines using a table, the Netherlands calculates fines uses an algorithm that combines both the offense and the gravity of the offense depending on context. For example, exceeding the speed limit by 10km/h on a road where a construction team is working will incur a more expensive fine than exceeding the speed limit by 10km/h on the same stretch of road when no construction crew is present. There is no published list of costs for parking violations and similar fines.
Speeding fines can be calculated online at the Openbaar Ministerie (Public Prosecutor) website
Some frequently asked questions about fines are answered in English on the Ministry of Justice website
It is obligatory that children under 18 who are less than 1.35 metres tall must travel in an EU approved child car seat or raised booster seat if (without a booster) the seat belt crosses at their neck. This applies to travelling in the front to back seats. A child under three may not be transported without being strapped in to a seat. The Netherlands has not widely adopted Extended Rear Facing car seats and most commonly-sold car seats rear-face only until between 9 – 12 months of age.
What Must Be Carried
It is compulsory to carry the following in the car at all times:
- Driving licence (and a passport if the driving licence does not include a photograph)
- Car registration papers
- Motor insurance certificate (not technically compulsory but strongly recommended)
- Hands-free equipment if speaking on a mobile while driving
It is also advisable, but not obligatory, to carry:
- A red warning triangle
- A reflective vest
ON THE ROAD
Make sure you understand the road signs you see in the Netherlands…
The road network in the Netherlands is dense and busy but in good condition. Rules and road signs are similar to those of other mainland European countries.
There are a large number of cyclists and skaters on the roads, and most main roads have cycle lanes; cyclists should always be in the designated lane where available. Bicycles always have priority over cars and even when a driver has right-of-way it is recommended to give way to cyclists.
There Netherlands does not have toll roads.
Similar information is available in English on the website ViaMichelin
Speed limits are implemented rigorously and radar traps are frequent. Driving over the speed limit and other law infringements are severely punished (fines, licence withheld, vehicle seized). Speed cameras, speed traps and unmarked vehicles are used by the traffic police.
Speed limits in Holland are as follows unless otherwise marked by signs:
Motorway/Expressway/Freeway (‘Autosnelweg’): 130 kph dropping to 120, 110, or 100 kph (where marked)
Commercial roads (‘Autoweg’): 100 kph
Built-up areas: 50 kph
Housing estates/residential areas: 30 kph
All other roads: 80 kph, dropping to 70 or 60 kph where marked
Note that speed limits are reduced for passenger cars or vans towing a trailer, camper vans and trucks.
Dutch Road Signs
See the English-language PDF Road Traffic Signs and Regulations in the Netherlands for information on driving in the Netherlands.
Yellow emergency telephones on the motorway roadside connect to the ANWB for roadside assistance. The ANWB is a membership breakdown service but is open to all road users who are able to subscribe for help from the scene of a breakdown or accident.
Parking is at a premium in most Dutch cities; there are clear regulations on who may park where, and when…
Parking is not allowed next to black and white or yellow curbs.
There is a severe lack of parking in Amsterdam and other major cities. In an effort to reduce congestion, many cities have a park and ride scheme (P+R locaties). The driver parks in an out-of-town lot and then finishes the journey to the city centre using public transport (such as tram or metro).
In almost all urban districts, street parking is not free. In metered parking areas (marked by a ‘P zone’ sign), parking tickets are available from a central meter machine (usually grey or yellow) at the side of the road.
The ticket must be displayed in the front window. Failing to display a ticket, or displaying a ticket that has expired, will be fined by roaming police parking attendants. A vehicle which remains after already being fined, could result in a yellow boot (wheel locking device) being placed on the car and fining the driver. If the car is towed away the costs can run into hundreds of Euros.
Meter machines on the street vary in terms of method of payment allowed (in large urban areas, most have English-language directions).
In some cases, a bank pin/chip card or credit card will work, or in some cities a mobile app is used to pay for parking automatically (billed monthly).
A time-stamped parking disc – displayed on the dashboard – is needed to park in urban blue zone areas. These discs are available from motor club offices, tobacco shops and police stations.
Parking is also available in large, multi-level or underground parking garages. Payment may be in cash or by pin/chip cards.
In more residential areas, permits for residents are available or a mobile app can be used to pay for parking (billed monthly)
Information on what to do when you have a road traffic accident: who to call and how to fill in the accident report document for insurance after a car crash…
It is obligatory for all cars in the Netherlands to have at least third party liability auto insurance (‘wettelijke aansprakelijkheid’), other motor insurance: fire, theft, vandalism is optional.
The insurance agent will provide a European Claim Form, which should be kept in the car. The claim form is the basis on which an insurance claim is made. In the event of an accident, all parties complete and sign the form at the scene. Copies are then sent to all claimants insurers for assessment.
What to do at the scene of the accident:
If the vehicle is blocking the road, use hazard lights and place a red warning triangle 30 meters from the scene to warn oncoming traffic
All parties involved must exchange details:
Name and address of all the people involved in the accident
Vehicle registration numbers
Insurance company details
If the accident is not too serious (for instance, if it only involves damage to property), then take the following action:
- All parties involved in the accident complete and sign a claim form. This may be used as evidence. If there is disagreement and the form cannot be signed by all involved, the police can be asked to intervene
- The names and addresses of any witnesses should also be mentioned, as well as information on the facts of the accident
- If possible, take a photograph of the scene of the accident
- The claim form must then be sent to the insurance company; in the Netherlands there is no time deadline.
Accidents involving injury or fatality
In the event of a road accident in which someone is injured or killed:
- Contact the police and call an ambulance if necessary: 112
- The police will make an official report describing the details of the accident and take note of the personal details of all people involved, including registration numbers and insurance information
- A copy of the accident report can be requested from Stichting Processen Verbaal (The Foundation for Police Reports); mention the time and place (municipality) where the accident took place and include relevant vehicle registration numbers.
- If the police do not attend the scene of the accident, those involved must collect the names and addresses of all relevant parties and witnesses. The European claim form may be used and signed by all
- Taking photographs or drawing a sketch of the scene is advisable
Note: Leaving the scene of an accident without providing this information is considered an offence.
If the party responsible for the damage is uninsured or unknown, the claim can be submitted to the Road Traffic Guarantee Fund (Waarborgfonds Motorverkeer).
Accidents Outside the Netherlands
The 5th Motor Insurance Directive is in force in the European Union regarding traffic accidents outside a person’s own country: victims of traffic accidents can now claim compensation in a simple manner from the insurer of the party at fault. These claims are submitted to the representative of the foreign insurer in the victim’s country.
International Accidents With Fatalities
Should a fatality occur in an accident, the deceased will be taken to a mortuary. The family is usually asked to identify the body. The Crown Prosecutor’s Office (Officier van Justitie) may investigate the cause of death. In such cases, the Officier van Justitie will give permission for the cremation or burial.
USEFUL DRIVING CONTACTS
Politie (Dutch Police)
ANWB Juridisch Advies (Dutch Touring Club Legal Services)
Vereniging Verkeersslachtoffers (Association of Road Victims)
Nederlands Bureau Motorrijtuigverzekeraars (Dutch Motor Insurer’s Bureau)
Slachtoffer HULP Nederland (Victim Support Association)
Waarborgfonds Motorverkeer (Road Traffic Guarantee Fund)