Driving in France

 

 

Drivers of all vehicles in France are required to carry a yellow fluorescent jacket which must be easily accessible and not kept in the boot or trunk. Failure to do so will result in a fine of 130 Euros, if stopped by the police.

Additionally, carry a red warning triangle, available at any motorway shop, for use during an accident or breakdown. Here are some more pointers about driving in France.

Driving License

If you belong to countries from EU, EEA, USA, or Canada and are visiting France for a period of 90 days or less you do not need an international driving license. If you plan to stay longer, standard EU driving licenses are valid.

However, holders of driver's licenses from non-EU countries may have to obtain a French license. In both cases you must check with the French embassy in your country before you come to France.    

Basics 

French motorways use alphabets and numbers to indicate routes and if you travel using road numbers, you will be confused. Instead it is best to follow a destination rather than a route number. European route numbers are also used where appropriate and alternative route options are displayed proceeded by the letters "Bis".  

Seat belts must be worn by both adults and children irrespective of whether they are seated in front or the back. In case of old cars without seat belts fitted in them only rear passengers can travel without seat belts. Children below the age of 10 must be seated in the rear using an appropriate child seat or booster seat. Only babies are permitted to travel in the front seat of a car provided they are seated in an approved rear-facing baby seat and the air bag is turned off. 

Saturdays and Sundays are the best time to drive around in France, except in January and February when the Alpine motorways can get too crowded and on Saturdays between July 10th and August 30th when all the routes to the South get very crowded.    

While driving in France it is advisable that you take the motorways (auto routes) to save time and free motorways or dual-carriageways wherever they exist. Don't fill up on a motorway; instead wait till you see a supermarket located a kilometer or so away from the exit to get the benefit of the cut-off price on offer. If you intend to do a lot of driving in France, invest in a modern diesel car which will be highly fuel-efficient.   

Warnings

The normal speed limits In France are:

Motorways 130 km/hr (just over 80 mph). - or 110 km/hr in rain.

Dual carriageways (divided highways)110 km/hr

Main roads is 90 km/hr (outside built-up areas)

A built-up area is 50 km/hr - unless otherwise indicated.

Stick to speed limits for your own safety and to avoid an instant ban and impoundment of your vehicle. Police cameras are found in rural areas where traffic moves rather fast and more recently mobile radars are in place to detect errant drivers.

Talking on the mobile phone, even hands free, is an offence in France. There is low tolerance for people who flout this rule and police are clamping down on violators with an on-the spot fine.   

The minimum age to drive in France is 18 and no one below 18 can drive even if he/she holds a valid license issued in another country. 

Wine is freely available in motorway service areas in France but the drink drive limit in France is lower than that in the UK so don't drink and drive.      

In Case of an Accident

If you are caught in a breakdown on France's motorways or your car is immobilized due to an accident, then you must set up your warning red triangle at a suitable distance behind your car so as to alert incoming traffic.   

If you are in an accident in which there are two or more vehicles involved, then according to standard practice you will have to fill in "constat amiable" (an amiable declaration) by the driver of a French car involved. Even if you are not at fault, wait at the accident scene till the police arrive. If possible call your insurance company at once to get in touch with a French representative.