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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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Driving in France Advice          12/8/2011 8:21:51 AM
Self drink test Mr Wilson - that is the first I have heard of that - I would be surprised if it was the case - if you have any doubts, don't drive. If a passenger in the front seat of the car has their shoes on, and the driver is pulled and is over the limit they can loose their license too if they are over the limit! Submitted By: Driving in France Advice

Driving in France Advice         12/8/2011 8:18:55 AM
British car insurance while driving in France Mr Smith - They are obliged to provide at least the 'minimum cover required to drive in any member country' so this probably would be 3rd party. Getting a green card should give you a better cover from your insurer - but is not required by law wto drive in France. As far as notifying them that is down to the small print of your insurance policy. In France we can often cross borders and it is not obligatory to inform your insurance company - it would be like informing your English insurance company that you are going to drive in Wales or Scotland. It is a shame but it seems that the UK insurance companies are all trying it on! Submitted By: Driving in France Advice

Driving in France Advice         12/8/2011 8:12:09 AM
fluorescent vest Hi Tracey The fluorescent vest must comply with the correct EU standards. Buy one that conforms, they take up very little space and are inexpensive. Submitted By: Driving in France Advice

Mr.C.Smith         12/8/2011 12:20:09 AM
British car insurance while driving in France My car insurance company tell me that I must pay extra for a Green card for comprehensive insurance to drive in France and must inform them in advance before I travel but I shall be covered for third party cover without payment but must also inform them in advance.My policy is fully comprehensive.This info seems to be slightly at odds with your advice on green cards.Could you please clarify the situation.Mant thanks Submitted By: Mr.C.Smith

WILSON J         12/3/2011 4:37:15 PM
DRINK Is it true you now have to have a self drink test in the car at all times Submitted By: WILSON J

tracey         11/30/2011 7:54:52 AM
fluorescent vest can you take a fluorescent jacket instead? Submitted By: tracey

Mathew Paton         11/28/2011 4:58:02 PM
UK DRIVING LICENCE COVER NOTE My UK Driving Licence is currently with the DVLA to renew my PCV licence. They have provided me with a cover note to enable my driving in the UK and abroad. I want to know whether the cover note issued by the DVLA is acceptable in France. Submitted By: Mathew Paton

Driving in France Advice         2/23/2011 12:31:26 PM
Childrens Car Seats and Front Passenger Seat in France Thanks Lisa for your question. The response was too long to fit into one of these little posts so I've put my answer on it's own page: Childrens car seats and passenger seats - driving in France Submitted By: Driving in France Advice

Lisa         2/23/2011 10:20:24 AM
children traveling in front seat Hi, can you tell me at what age it is lergal for a child to sit in the front eats (in a booster seat where required)? Thanks Submitted By: Lisa

Driving in France Advice         7/31/2009 8:49:44 AM
Photocopies of Vehicle Docs in France

In response to all the people that have been asking about carrying photocopies of log books, MOT certificates and insurance certificates while driving in France....... Carry the ORIGINALS with you, by all means keep some photocopies at home, in you luggage etc. just in case something happens to the originals.

Many French people only have the logbook in the car when they are driving it, they keep the logbook in their handbag etc... On French car windscreens you will see a little white sticker with blue writing (this is the MOT type certificate) and a second sticker which is green and is a summary of the car insurance details (the full document should be in the car when driving in France).

Submitted By: Driving in France Advice

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