For motorists travelling in France


General warnings

This article does not exempt you from checking the French law, insurance documents and anything else. This article is for general advice only.

  1. Keep right !
  2. Law enforcement has become stricter over the last few years. Also, recent reciprocal agreements between most European licensing authorities have been signed; therefore road traffic penalties have to be paid, whatever the nationality of the motorist. The following rules are checked with particular care by gendarmes (Ministry of Defence) and police (Ministry of the Interior), both legally entitled to impose fines.
    • You must have your driving licence with you if you are driving, if not you can be fined.
    • You must have your car registration document with you, if not you can be fined.
    • If your car needs an MOT you must have the certificate with you, if not you can be fined (the gendarmes do know about MOT).
    • If you have your licence taken, eg by the gendarmes, you cannot drive.
    • Radar detectors are illegal to use or even have one in the car. Contributions to the French government are over 1,000 euros.
    • If your GPS shows where the speed cameras are, that function must be switched off or the fines are over 1,000 euros. The GPS is permitted to show an area which is a danger area (approx 500 metres) check your GPS, some do it automatically for France.

Speed limits

  1. 130 km/h on motorways (110 km/h if raining)
  2. 110 km/h if the signs allow (100 km/h if raining)
  3. 90 km/h on other roads (unless a different speed limit is shown)
    • but from 1 July 2018 the limit drops to 80 km/h
  4. 50 km/h in villages (unless a different speed limit is shown). Note that the speed limit starts at the village sign and ends at the end of the village when the sign is crossed out.
  5. Large road signs « pour votre sécurité, contrôles automatiques » showing a speed camera to announce a fixed radar check - but not always.
  6. Minimum speeds : none on small roads ; 80 km/h on left (fast) lane of motorways ; 60 km/h on other lanes. Slow vehicles must use the special slow lane when there is one.

Lights

  1. Beam adjusters are required (if your car lights normally 'dip-left').
  2. We recommend carrying a set of spare bulbs, since a missing light has to be replaced on the spot if the vehicle owner wishes to avoid a fine.
  3. Please note that approaching vehicles flashing their lights signifies either appreciation of your vehicle or presence of a police check and/or a mobile radar. Be careful because sometimes it can mean 'I am coming through' NOT 'you go first'.

Seat belts — Seat belts are not compulsory for vehicles built before 1 July 1973. You must use them if you have them.

Drink and drugs — The maximum alcohol limit for a driver is 0.5mg/litre (UK is higher). Also be careful as if the passenger has a driving licence it is not unknown that they may be breathalysed as well, if the driver is over the limit.
They are very strict on drugs and driving and you will be very severely penalized.

Children — Children under twelve are not allowed in the front of any vehicle (unless there are no back seats). Children under three are not allowed in historic cars, unless appropriate and approved equipment is used (child seats, etc.).

Stop signs — They mean that a complete stop is required, as for a red light. NO PART of the car must cross the solid white line, or you can be fined (over 100 euros). A stop of 2 seconds is suggested as your wheels must be seen to stop.

Mobile phones — Strictly prohibited while driving, use of hands-free device is allowed. Fines are 90 euros or more

Warning devices in case of breakdown — Since 2008, a warning triangle and reflecting jackets are compulsory. The jackets must be within reach from your seat, not in the boot/luggage, so they can put it on before getting out of the car.

Running out of Fuel — On a motorway it is illegal, you can be fined

Breakdown on Motorways — If you breakdown on a motorway in France, you will have to pay the official recovery people before they will tow you off. UK European breakdown insurance does not generally cover you until you are off the motorway.

Parking in towns

  1. A yellow continuous line means no parking. In some cases, there is an explanation, e.g. delivery zone ( « livraisons » )
  2. A blue dotted line means that you must display a disk, available at any newsagent or tobacconist (approximately 3 euros)
  3. A white dotted line means a pay zone, with parking meters. Beware that euro coins may not be accepted and that a special “plastic card”, specific to the town, may be required (available at news agents and tobacconists).
  4. Pay areas are usually free on Sundays and on week days from 7 pm to 9 am and during lunch time (12 to 2 pm). Hours are always indicated on parking notices.