Useful Driving Information
If you are intending to drive to your holiday home then you should be aware of “La Code de la Route”. In France this is the equivalent of the British ‘Highway code” and the following instructions/restrictions have recently become much more stringent.
In an Emergency: 112 is the European emergency call number you can dial anywhere in France in case of accident, assault or in any other distress situation.
What you must have:
Original Documents (not Photocopies): Driving licence & paper counterpart, registration documents, MOT and Insurance certificates.
Warning Triangle: Compulsory by law. If you have an accident or breakdown this should be set up at least 30m back from your car to warn approaching traffic.
Reflective Jackets: One for the driver is compulsory (and one for every passenger is recommended). They should be kept inside the car not in the boot. In the event of a breakdown the driver must put on the reflective jacket before leaving the vehicle.
Failure to carry these items in the vehicle will result in a fine being incurred. If you are flying and hiring a car in France, check with the hire company that all the relevant pieces of equipment are provided.
Wearing Seat Belts is compulsory. Children up to the age of 10 years must travel in an approved child seat or restraint, adapted to their age and size. Children under the age of 10 are not allowed to travel on the front seats of vehicles unless there is no rear seat in the vehicle, or the rear seat is already occupied with children under 10, or there are no seat belts.
Headlight Beam Adapters: These stop you dazzling oncoming drivers. Forgetting them may result in a hefty fine and it could invalidate your insurance as your car is legally unroadworthy without them.
GB Sticker: You must display a GB sign on the boot of your car – failure to comply could result in an on-the-spot fine. If your car has number plates that include the GB euro-symbol you don’t have to display a conventional GB sticker as well.
Breathalyser: From 31 March 2013 it became compulsory for drivers of all motor vehicles including motorcyclists, but excluding mopeds, to carry a breathalyser in their vehicle while travelling in France. However, as yet, there is no penalty for not doing so. The breathalyser has to be one certified by the French authorities, showing an ‘NF’ number. Keep a note of the expiry date.
The official text states that one unused certified breathalyser must be produced. We recommend that two single-use breathalysers are carried, so if one is used or damaged you will still have a replacement to produce. The Gendarmes are extremely strict on drinking and driving and getting more so.
Speed Limits: Speed limits are fixed according to the place, the vehicle and the weather. Standard legal limits which may be varied by signs, for private vehicles without trailers. In built-up areas 31 mph (50 km/h), outside built-up areas 50 mph (80 km/h), but 68 mph (110 km/h) on urban motorways and dual carriageways separated by a central reservation and 80 mph (130 km/h) on motorways, 68 mph (110km/h) when wet).
Speed Cameras: As part of the changes to French motoring law, road signs indicating the location of fixed speed cameras are being removed and additional fixed speed cameras added. The use of speed-camera alert systems, which notify drivers of speed camera locations, is forbidden. Satellite Navigation Systems (also known as GPS), Tablets and Smartphones, which have maps indicating the location of fixed speed cameras should have the ‘fixed speed camera PoI (Points of Interest)’ function deactivated.
Mobile phones – must not be used whilst driving. From July 2015 using ear phones or headsets when driving is illegal.
Drivers must not have a TV, video game, DVD or similar within their view.
Eating - whilst driving is illegal and could result in a fine, as can putting on make up, reading a map and listening to very loud music.
Smoking – Since 2015 it is forbidden to smoke in private vehicles in the presence of children under the age of 12.
Lights: Dipped headlights should be used in poor daytime visibility although this is not compulsory.
Priority to the right: In built-up areas where you see the sign “priorité a droite” give way to traffic coming from the right. It may be indicated by a triangle warning sign with an X on it. A yellow diamond sign indicates that the priority to the right does not apply on the road ahead.
On roundabouts, priority is given to vehicles from the left, unless indicated otherwise.
Spare Bulbs and Fuses: It is advisable that your vehicle is equipped with a set of replacement bulbs. If you are stopped for a faulty light, you will be expected to replace it before driving off and possibly pay a large fine.
Medical Treatment: Make sure you have a free European Health Insurance Card (EHIC). You can apply for a card at NHS England http://www.nhs.uk/NHSEngland/Healthcareabroad/EHIC/Pages/about-the-ehic.aspx
Pets: If you are planning to travel with a pet go to www.gov.uk/take-pets-abroad for further information.
The AA www.theaa.com has more information on all of the above.
Don’t Forget – THINK RIGHT. It’s easy to forget to drive on the right, particularly after doing something familiar, such as leaving a petrol station or supermarket car park.