France is one of the world’s most popular destination for seven owners , and for many of us our closest neighbour. With lots to see only a short drive from the Channel ports for those in the UK , it’s a great place to start driving in another country. With two tours in 2021 organised for France, Laon Historque and Le Mans and many more of us likely to drive there in 2021, Scenic Tours have provided this guide to driving in France.
Despite some recent increases, accident rates have decreased markedly over the past decade. Speeds have fallen on main roads, with many speed cameras and on- the-spot finnes of up to € 375. For drivers exceeding the limit by 40km/ h or more, the police may seize your licence, or even impound your car. You may still find French drivers more aggressive than you’re used to, though, especially in major cities. Typically, they flash their headlights to warn that they are coming through and not to give way. Attitudes to drinking and driving may seem more relaxed, but don’t take any risks, as the limit is lower than in many countries.
The most important rule to observe in France is the notorious ‘priorité à droite:’ in built-up areas and whenever you see the yellow diamond sign with a black bar through it, you must give way to traffic approaching from the right. When entering a town or village, the place name sign indicates the start of a 50km/ h speed limit. Local drivers often take a cavalier approach to parking scrapes, and fail to heed pedestrian crossings, so take care when stopping if cars are close behind you. Away from the cities, traffic is often light, although the summer months can be very busy. Look for the ‘Itinéraires bis’ signs on main routes: these will divert you onto less crowded side roads.
France has an excellent, albeit expensive, network of toll motorways, with frequent rest areas. Traffic information is regularly broadcast on 107.7 FM, with some reports in other languages. Watch out for motorcyclists forcing their way between lanes of cars: officially, this is allowed in slow-moving queues, but is often abused. You can get through the toll booths much faster with a ‘Liber-t’ tag, now available to non- residents. If you break down, you must use the official contractor to be towed o the motorway before your own breakdown cover takes effect. In case of accident, both parties should complete a ‘constat amiable,’ the French version of the European Accident Statement Form.
If you’re camping, it may also be worth carrying a Camping Card International to give you additional proof of identity, third party liability insurance, plus discounts at a wide range of campsites and tourist attractions.
French speed limits
In the table below you may notice that speed limits are lowered in rain and other adverse weather conditions. The other point worth noting is that there is a minimum speed limit of 80 km/h on motorways for vehicles travelling in the outside lane.
PLEASE NOTE - Much of the signage in France will still display 90km/h despite the change. If you see signage for 90km/h please remember it is actually 80 and will be enforced by speed cameras and police.
General rules for driving in France are not dissimilar to other countries and include: Drink-drive limit (g/ l blood): 0.5 / 0.2 for novice drivers ( first three years) ;Children in front seats: Min 10 year old ; Min driving age: 18 (21-25 to rent car); Day time running lights are recommended; Mobile phones that are handheld and the use of earphones are prohibited. Hands-free with Bluetooth connection only; Radar detectors are prohibited as are GPS speed camera alerts (POI; Tyres must have a minimum tread depth of 1.6mm;You will need to carry your driving licence of IDP, Prrof of ID (e.g.passport), Motor insurance and car registration document.
Vehicles that are parked illegally may be towed away and impounded, even if registered abroad. The owner is liable for the cost of impounding and for every 24 hours the vehicle is kept.
Special rules apply to driving in France as follows: Priority to the right: give way to vehicles approaching from the right (unless signs indicate otherwise); Always give way to trams and do not overtake stationary trams when passengers are alighting . No smoking with children under 12 in car; Flip- flops may not be worn when driving; You will need a country indicator sticker on your car to drive in France unless it’s equipped with EU number plates, which show the country code in a circle of stars on a blue background.
Driving equipment. It is required by law to carry:a warning triangle; Headlamp beam deflectors - UK drivers : Depending on your car, you will either need deflector stickers or have to adjust the beam manually; High-vis jacket( s); Two single-use breathalysers (check expiry dates). Fines no longer levied, but still legally required and finally spare bulbs. It is recommended that you also carry aFirst -aid kit and fireextinguisher.
Motorway Tolls. Tolls operate on most motorways outside major cities, and you can pay by cash/credit card or use a tag system (Liber-t). The tag system is highly recommended when driving a seven and you can get More information on the website: www.autoroutes.fr & www.saneftolling.co.uk.
If you breakdown on the toll roads, that you have to inform the police. They will arrange breakdown on the Motorways, as its not covered in normal breakdown. This will be at your own cost.
The international three-colour traffic light system is used France. However, there is no amber light after the red light.
A flashing amber light indicates caution, slow down or proceed but give way to vehicles coming from the right.
A flashing red light indicates no entry. It may also indicate a level crossing or exit used by emergency vehicles.
If a red light is accompanied by a yellow arrow, you may proceed in the direction indicated by the arrow, provided you give way to vehicles travelling in that direction, as well as to pedestrians.
Standard fines are classified into four categories according to the gravity of the offence, these range from from €11 to €750. This can be reduced if payment is made within 15 days in the case of postal payments and three days if paid in person, or increased if payment is not made within 45 days.
French police authorities are authorised to impose and collect fines on the spot up to €750 from drivers who violate traffic regulations.
You can pay a reduced fine if you pay within 3 days if the offence committed is not likely to entail the suspension of the driving licence or a prison sentence. If you want to contest the fine, you must apply for a court hearing within 30 days.
If the offence committed is likely to entail a heavy fine and the suspension of the driving licence or a prison sentence, and you are not resident in France or no employment there you will be required to deposit a guarantee.
The police may your vehicle until payment is made. This payment can be in euros, by cheque drawn on a French bank or by travellers' cheques.
The standard fine for breaking the speed limit in France is €135, in addition there will be points added to your licence depending on how much the limit is exceeded by. Exceeding the speed limit by more than 40 km/h results in your licence being confiscated on the spot by the police.
Seat belt and in car devices fines
The fine for failing to wear a seat belt is set at €135, reduced to €90 if paid within 15 days.
Fines for using devices including those that can detect speed cameras, and GPS systems capable of displaying fixed speed camera locations. Penalties include fines of up to €1,500 and confiscation of the device and vehicle.
Confiscation of vehicles
In some cases, instead of (or in addition to) a fine or prison sentence, the vehicle can be confiscated. The main offences this can be applied to are: Exceeding the speed limit by over 50 km/h; Repeated offence of driving under the influence of alcohol (0.40 mg per litre of breath); Hit and run; Refusal to stop when requested; Driving without a licence; Driving a vehicle with a category of licence that of a category which does not cover that vehicle; Driving without insurance; Any of these can result in the vehicle becoming the property of the French government.