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 Driving in France


24.06.2013 - Speed limits on Autoroutes in France in the rain

I have heard that during the Le Mans 24h many drivers coming to visit the race, were stopped and fined for doing 130kmh on the autoroute because the road surface was a little wet. So be careful and if in doubt stick to 110kmh to avoid over zealouse French traffic police. The law in France states that on autoroutes the maximum speed is 130kmh, except in times of rain or other precipitations. I guess that they mean rain or showers.... argue the toss in a nice way, say 'code de la route dit 130kmh si il y a pas de plui ou autre precipitations' - and if it isn't raining (you're in luck) hold out your hand and look up to the sky to indicate that it is not raining.... give it the good old gallic shrug and smile sweetly - bon chance! Obviously if the road surface is wet, it could lead to aquaplaning so be sensible and drive accordingly.

Compulsary alcohol breathalyser test kits for cars and motorcycles - No longer a requirment!

It is no longer a requirment to carry breathalysers in France - It was discovered that the system was inpratical as the chemical test units had to be stored within specific temperature ranges, which could not be guaranteed in a car, also it was percieved that it was a scam to help out a family member of Sarkozy who manufactured the kits..... : Breathalysers in France

As of the 1st of July 2008 you are required to carry not only a warning triangle in your car but also a fluorescent safety vest while driving in France. In fact the safety vest must be carried inside the car and not in the boot. So keep your safety vest under your seat or in your glove box etc.... The theory being that if you breakdown in a dangerous place you should get your safety vest on before getting out of the car in France.  If you fail to have these available there are some hefty on the spot fines for these motoring offences if caught driving in France without them! The standard fines are around 90 euros per item. It is thought that the French police will be checking out lots of cars at random spot checks to ensure they are carrying the warning triangle and reflective safety jacket. Remember to ensure your reflective jacket is CE approved.

The minimum age for driving in France is 18 - so if you're 17 and have a UK driving license you should not drive in France until you have turned 18!

If you are involved in an accident or breakdown whilst driving in France, or assit someone in an accident or breakdown in France, you are required to wear your reflective saftey jacket. 

Driving in France can be a daunting prospect for many motorists new to driving in France. Obviously you will be driving on the 'wrong side of the road' which poses it's own challenges. Here are a couple of tips:

  • 1.    When driving in France on single carriageway roads try to only stop at petrol stations on the right hand side of the road. It's much more natural then to continue driving on the right hand side of the road.
  • 2.    Take your time! Don't rush! If you rush your instinct may take over and you're instinct is geared to driving on the left!
  • 3.    Pay particular care on roundabouts! A lot of French don't!!! Navigators remember to look at the signs ANTI-CLOCKWISE! Drivers remember Danger is coming from the LEFT!

When planning your driving routes through France, you can try which provides maps, directions and even places to stay en-route! For up to the minute driving information on traffic conditions on the major routes throughout France try France2 traffic conditions this is a service provided by one of the major television stations in France.

One thing to be very careful about when driving in France! Priorité a Droite

Yes that's right, you're driving along quite happily in France and some silly sod trys to sail out in front of you from a side road on the right, hopefully no harm is done and you're just a little perplexed as to why on earth some French person is hooting at you and gesticulating madly..... well ermm he may have had priority from the right! I know it sounds crazy but it still exists all over France. In the town of Lorient for example nearly everything is priority from the right! It's a nightmare, plus the new bus lanes, my word you have to have eyes in the back and sides of your head!

You see this sign while driving in along in France and you'll think Ohh yes a cross roads, no probs.... Well probably, but what it really means is Priority from the right!!!!

If you've got English plates on your car they'll probably figure out for themselves that you're not going to give way for them on a side road, but keep an eye out because what you may think are white lines indicating a stop for someone driving upto your road from the right may in fact just be a pedestrian crossing. Here are three examples of road markings indicating stops and give ways that you may see while driving in France:

These markings are in association with a sign or traffic light and indicate where to give way or stop. This is pretty much like it is in the UK when driving. However in France you will often find roads that end with this:

This is a pedestrian crossing in France, it could be on the road in conjunction with one of the above junction markings, if not, it is not a give way (except for pedestrians) and if it's on a road to your right as you approach it, then you should be ready to let people out and give way to them! It's easy to miss so be careful while driving in France!

Some items you should be carrying when Driving in France:

UK Driving License - Compulsory to carry this when driving in France - failure = on the spot fines!

Car registration documents - log book must be carried with you at all times. This can also incur an on the spot fine!

Headlamp Adaptors - UK vehicles are designed for driving on the left hand side of the road this will mean that when driving in France you will dazzle oncoming drivers. Failure to adapt your headlamps will render the vehicle UNFIT for the road. invalidating your motor insurance  and could result in a spot fine

GB Stickers - these are required by International Law to indicate Country of Registration

Warning Triangles - In France warning triangle must be placed 50 - 150 metres behind your vehicle to warn approaching traffic if your vehicle breaks down or is involved in an accident.  Hazard warning lights alone are not sufficient

Fluorescent Safety Vest - Obligatory to carry this in your vehicle while driving in France, in fact it must be within reach so that if you have an accident or breakdown, you can get out of the car you were driving with it on, so don't put it in the boot of your car!

Spare Bulbs - All car lamps, lenses and reflectors must be in working order at all times - failure to replace a broken bulb could result in a spot fine so always carry spares for all your car lights

Spare Specs - Yes a spare pair of glasses are required if you have contact lenses and are going to be driving in France.

First Aid Kit - A First Aid kit must be carried in your vehicle at all times when driving in France.

Fire Extinguisher - If you fail to render assistance in the event of a fire or take necessary precautions to prevent a fire from escalating is an offence

Insurance Policies - If the driver/owner of a vehicle fails to comply with the law and fails to ensure the vehicle is roadworthy for the country he intends to visit could result in the insurance company repudiating liability under the Policy.

Failure to Comply - On the spot fines can be imposed In the event of prosecution and conviction for failure to comply with the legal requirements of EU countries.

On the Spot Fines - Fines have to be paid on the spot in the local currency with travellers cheques and credit cards not being acceptable. Inability to pay may in some countries result in the vehicle being impounded until fine has been paid. Whilst a visitor driving in France will probably have to pay on the spot fines, residents often are given 45 days to pay. Residents can pay radar camera fines online here:

Car Insurance - Green Card - It is no longer a requirement to have a green card to cross borders with a green card within the EU.  This is because EU member countries and certain other countries comply with the 1st directive on motor insurance, which says that all insurance policies issued within the EU must provide the minimum insurance cover required by law in any other EU country.

Countries that don't need a Green Card for driving abroad are:

Andorra, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovak Republic, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland

Countries that do require a Green card for driving abroad are:

Albania, Belarus, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), Islamic Republic of Iran, Israel, Moldova, Morocco, Russia, Serbia and Montenegro, Tunisia, Turkey, Ukraine.

It is always worth checking  with your insurance company prior to driving in France though they are bound to comply with EU law.

For driving in France you will need to carry a copy of your car insurance documents for driving in France. If you will be driving through a country that requires a green card then you must have one as proof of valid insurance. Some insurance companies do charge for a green card so please check.

Remember to take your time driving in France. It is a little different and therefore can be more dangerous for those of us attuned to driving on the left! If you take your time, you will be less stressed and will be able to enjoy the French scenery more. Bon Voyage!

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We will try and reply to as many of your driving in France questions as soon as possible. However due to the over whelming number of questions we will reply to those questions that crop up the most often first. We hope you understand!

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harry booth         6/14/2009 11:20:03 AM
Fire Extinguisher Are they compulsory in France? Submitted By: harry booth

Mrs.Channell         6/12/2009 12:20:25 PM
green card My insurers(sheilas wheels) say that I am legally covered 3rd party,so do I still need a green card? thank-you Submitted By: Mrs.Channell

SuperUser Account         6/10/2009 8:06:19 PM
driving license Hi Jean AFAIK even an old style licence is fine. If you do have a new credit card style picture licence then you should bring with you the paper counter part while driving in France. If you live in France then you are expected to change your licence to a French one. In order to guard any HGV classes that exist on your UK driving licence, including 7.5t you'll have to have a medical exam to ensure you're fit for driving an HGV. Submitted By: SuperUser Account

jean bradbury         6/9/2009 9:39:11 AM
driving license Does your British driving license have tobe the photograph type whilst visiting france Submitted By: jean bradbury

Julian         6/7/2009 9:20:00 PM
Motorway signs Hi Steve - It's actually 'Rappel' and it means 'Reminder' - Often you'll see this on speed limit signs. So if you are doing 130km/h and you see a 110 Rappel - then you're already breaking the limit! While driving in France, you'll often find that at the entry to a village it's marked with a sign giving you the name of the village.... well that's where the 50km/h limit normally starts! So be careful, sometimes you're driving along and are just on the outskirts of a village in France when you pass the village name sign, you're automatically in a 50km/h speed limit. The next sign you see says 50 will probably have a 'Rappel' written below!!!!! Submitted By: Julian

Julian         6/7/2009 9:15:25 PM
Specs So far I've spoken to loads of people and they all say that for contacts you must carry a spare pair of sepc when Driving in France. However nobody thought that you had to have a 2nd pair of specs in the car if you were driving with specs. If I find out otherwise I'll post it here! Submitted By: Julian

Steven Allen         6/7/2009 8:46:59 PM
Motorway signs If I see the sign "RAPELLE" on a French motorway what does it indicate. Submitted By: Steven Allen

Hugh         6/6/2009 1:20:45 PM
Specs I have specs, do I have to have a spare set in the car while driving in France? Submitted By: Hugh

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