Driving in - an international driver's guide
Driving in - An international driver's guide.

Driving in France

Bonjour! When driving in France, remember that you need to drive on the right side of the road, which is something you will need to get adjusted to quickly if you are coming from a country that drives on the left.

Roads

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The roads in France are in extremely good condition, mainly because of the large amount of road tolls. The majority of roads in France have tolls. All major credit cards are accepted while paying the toll. The toll fee depends upon the distance you travel and also the type of vehicle you are driving. Trunk roads, also known as route nationales do not have tolls, except when crossing certain structures subjected to toll. For these kinds of roads, it is always a good idea to pay by cash than by credit card.

Driving age

The minimum age requirement for driving in France is 18 years.

Speed Limits

Speed limits vary depending on where you are driving in France. The speed is measured in kilometers per hour (kph), which might be a bit confusing for someone who's not used to the metric system. Speed limits in France are:
  • Urban areas: 50 kmph (31 mph)
  • Open roads: 90 kmph (55 mph)
  • Dual carriage ways: 110 kmph (68 mph)
  • Motorways or Expressways: 130 kmph (80 mph)

Since France experiences a lot of bad weather conditions, speed limits can also vary depending upon the weather. The laws are stricter for people who've had their licenses for shorter periods of time, for example, a person who has held a license for less than one year must always follow the speed limit of 90kph.

More and more roads in France have fixed speed cameras, which are all preceded by a warning road sign.

Be aware that urban speed limits begin at the town or city sign (not always where the first 50km/h sign is situated), usually denoted by a white name panel with a red border, and the limit ends where the name panel has a diagonal black bar through it.

In France, anyone caught travelling at more than 25km/h above the speed limit can have their license confiscated on the spot.

Drinking and Driving

The amount of legally allowed alcohol in the blood is 0.5 mg/ml.

Documentation

Remember to carry important documentation with you at all times. Documents you should have with you:
  • International Driving Permit (IDP) - must be accompanied by a valid driver's license from your home country.
  • Vehicle Registration
  • Driver's license - If your license does not incorporate a photograph, ensure you carry your passport to validate the license.
  • Certificate of Motor Insurance

Right of way

If you're driving in france, you should learn about "Priorite a droite", or in English "Priority to the right". This strange rule only applies when driving in France, so it causes much confusion for forign drivers. This rule basically states that when driving along a road, anyone joining from your right-hand side has priority over the main road on which you are driving, regardless of the size of the adjoining road. The joining car does not have to stop - you do! This law is thankfully not widely used any more, but in certain roundabouts (like some main roundabouts in Paris for example) you will still see cars stop as the traffic from the right joins. On the expressways this rule doesn't apply anymore.

When you wish to turn left in an intersection that has traffic lights, make sure that there's no oncoming traffic before you turn, because usually both directions will have a green light. You can enter the intersection, and wait until there is no oncoming traffic going the other way, and then complete the turn.

Safety Belts

France requires the use of either seatbelts or a safety seat for everyone in the car, both at the front and back.

Driving with Children

Children under 10 years of age are prohibited from travelling in the front seat, and must be seated at the rear with a seatbelt tightly fastened or in a safety seat (depending on the child's age).

The Police

The police have the authority to collect fines and press charges on the spot.

Additional Required Equipment

All cars in France must be equipped with the following equipment:

Warning triangle Spare lightbulbs A First-aid kit

Parking

Additional Issues

If you see the critical sign (yellow triangle with a black border) it means that the road on which you are driving has priority.

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Traffic Lights

Unlike when driving the USA, you cannot turn right when you have a red light in an intersection.

Another thing that foreign drivers might find confusing about traffic lights in France is that sometimes there are traffic lights that are meant for traffic coming OUT of the intersection for pedestrians who are crossing the street. This means that you will have one traffic light for going into the intersection, and another for going out of the same intersection. These traffic lights are most common in roundabouts, where you will have a traffic light as you get out of the roundabout.

Drinking and Driving

Although the legally allowed blood alcohol limit is higher than most countries (0.5 mg/ml per litter), going over the limit can cause you serious damage. If you have between 0.5 and 0.8mg of alcohol in your blood you could be fined between 135€ to 750€. You will not be allowed to drive until the alcohol level drops to 0.5mg.

Other Issues

A law in France states that if you fail to provide help during a fire or do not take any actions to prevent it from escalating, it is an offence.

Usually, the French do not use horns. They are only meant to be used in case of extreme danger.

While parking in a dimly lit area, the parking lights must be kept on. If another driver who is behind you flashes his headlights, he is indicating that he wants to pass.

Additional Information

(Latest Update: 20/09/2013)


All information on this page is provided as a service to our users. It is not meant to be a comprehensive document, though we try to keep it as updated as we can. We cannot be held responsible in any way for any consequences arising from any inaccuracies.
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