Driving in France for the first time can be a daunting prospect for even the most experienced drivers.
Signposts are in a language you may not understand, distances and speeds are shown in kilometres instead of miles, and to top it off nobody seems to know how to drive properly!
This is made even worse if you’re from the UK and not used to driving on the right-hand side of the road.
Here’s my list of five things to know before cruising the French highways.
Driving in France
1/ Right priority
You know how everyone says the French are crazy drivers? Well it’s for good reason. It’s mostly due to the fact that cars will just pull out on you without warning. This is because of the right priority rule.
The standard practice is that if a vehicle joins the road from the right then this vehicle has priority. This is the case in all situations unless otherwise indicated.
2/ You must carry your papers
In the UK it’s not the end of the world if you get pulled over by the police and you don’t have your licence, insurance certificate, or MOT certificate on you. As long as you present yourself with your missing document at a police station within the next seven days you’ll be fine.
This is not the case in France. When you’re pulled over by the police in France if you don’t have your licence or car registration with you you’ll receive an on the spot fine of €11. Your fine will be increased to €135 if you don’t present yourself at a police station with the document within five days.
On the other hand, if you don’t have your insurance certificate you’ll be fined up to €75 on the spot and have five days to take it to a police station or your fine will go up to €135.
Finally, if you don’t have your MOT certificate then you can be fined €90 which must be paid within fifteen days or it will be increased to €135.
3/ Tailgating is very common
One thing you will notice happen very frequently on French roads is tailgating. Obviously not every driver does it but it is not generally seen as out of line by most people.
This is mostly seen on the motorway in particular in the outside lane. Most drivers in the outside lane show little to no patience with any car going less quickly than they are. They will almost immediately close up behind you and if you don’t pull over within a couple of seconds they will likely begin to flash their high beams at you.
For some reason that I can’t even begin to understand, general consensus is that this is acceptable behaviour despite the danger it causes.
4/ The speed limit
Back home in the UK the speed limit is the speed limit. It is set in stone and clearly indicated by the side of the road. In France it’s not quite as simple as that.
Most of the time the limits stay the same and are similar to in the UK. However on the motorway there are often two speed limits indicated on the same sign. One showing 110 with a rain cloud symbol and one saying 130 with a sun symbol. This means that when the weather conditions are poor you may only drive at a maximum of 110km/h. On the other hand you are permitted to drive at up to 130km/h when the weather is good.
5/ Emergency kit
If you break-down or have an accident while driving in France it’s not enough to simply put on your hazards. You must also have a number of safety items.
Firstly you are required to have a high visibility vest because moving around your vehicle in the dark can be dangerous.
Additionally you must have a triangular emergency light to put on the road behind your vehicle. This is used to warn other motorists of your presence.
Failure to have these items with you is punishable by a fine of up to €135.
If you are unable to find them back home they can be bought at almost all service stations in France.
What do you think? Let me know if I missed anything in the comments section below!
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