Here we outline some of the characteristics of driving a car in France.
Don't be deterred! It is less dangerous driving in France than you might be led to believe. The French are often accused of driving too fast, and too close behind the car in front - the second especially is a fair comment - but generally the roads aren't too busy and accidents are very unusual.
A few comments to keep you safe on the road:
Drive on the right
It's easy to forget when you pull onto a quiet road, or to drive the wrong way around a roundabout (in France you go anti-clockwise!)
- pay great attention at junctions, and in towns, when cars often ignore right of way and appear from nowhere right ahead of you
Give priority to the right
- almost all roundabouts in France now give priority to traffic already on the roundabout (like most other countries) but there are very occasional exceptions where people on the roundabout must give priority to cars entering the roundabout.
- likewise there are certain junctions, when you might not expect them, where traffic joining the road has priority over traffic already on the road. If the side road has no white line / stop sign for traffic approaching from that direction, that is a strong indicator that cars will not stop, or at least are not required to stop, and you should give them priority. This is more common on quiet and country roads than on main highways.
I'm sure you can imagine how you will react if a car suddenly and without warning pulls out onto the road in front of you...well they might have had the right of way!
Speed Limits in France
- speed limits are always in kilometres per hour (so will your car speedometer be so that should be easy). Speed limits are rigorously enforced - doing over 50 kmh in a 50 zone etc is an offence and you will be fined for it, you won't 'get away with just going a bit over the speed limit'.
- the speed limit in a town (usually 50 kmh, but not always) starts as you enter the town i.e. when you pass the sign with the town name on, which will have a red border. The town speed limit does not end until you pass the sign showing the town name with a black line through it.
BEWARE OF THIS! The 'leaving the town' sign can be quite a way out of town on a road with no houses - the only sign of life on the road might be the policeman (gendarme) crouching with his radar behind the sign
- 'fixed' speed / radar traps are used in France but with nothing like the intensity of the UK - they are quite few and far between
- speed limits are reduced in wet and poor weather conditions. Usual speed limits (kmh) are:
|Good weather||Bad weather|
|Towns, villages, built up areas*||50||50|
|Many towns have lower speed limits than this. Always check signs.|
General advice and comments about French driving
- motorways / autoroutes have a lot of places where you can pull off, find a toilet, and stretch your legs and eat a picnic. very often these are shady spots with trees etc.
- STOP signs do mean STOP - not go very slowly and almost stop. You can have your licence confiscated on the spot if you don't come to a complete halt.
- all people in the car must wear seatbelts
- a yellow jacket and warning triangle must always be carried in the car, and worn / used when necessary
Drink- driving in France
The rules in France about drinking and driving are now very strict, and while you might get away with 1 glass of wine OR 1 small beer, don't blame me if that takes you over the limit. Certainly if you drink more than that you will be over the limit.