Jump to content
Sign in to follow this  
wasntbtf

Driving In France - Some Rules & Regs

Recommended Posts

Driving in France.

 

I produced this for another caravanning forum I'm on, so I thought I would post it here as well. I hope that at least some find it useful.

 

I have collated the latest information from the law (principally Code de la Route), Statutory Instruments (Décret /Arrêté) and Ministerial Guidance, together with our experience over the past 15 years of living in France.

 

Apart from keeping ourselves legal, our son is now driving in France having passed his test in the UK last year and we are buying a Hobby in the UK which we will eventually bring back to France, so we had to check out both these aspects.

 

If you do run into a problem, establishing communication in French will help to smooth the way. Many French do speak English and will be prepared to meet you more than half way.

Remember that even for a simple breach of the law in terms of not having the proper equipment (warning triangle or safety jacket for example) you are liable to a 135 Euro fine.

 

Documents

 

You must carry your passport with you at all times and have your driving licence and vehicle documents with you when driving. In reality the French police are a lot more practical these days about carrying the originals provided you can take the originals to a police station on demand.

 

Every person travelling with you must have their own valid passport, including children.

 

You must have the registration document (V5), the MOT certificate if required and a valid certificate of motor insurance. They won't be interested what level of insurance cover you have, just that you are insured to drive in France, so you need to be able to show the territorial limits that apply; your Green Card will do this.

 

If don't own the vehicle and/or trailer and especially if it isn't your name on the V5 you must have an authorisation from the owner, preferably in French, to use it/them.

 

If you are towing a caravan that is CRiS registered it is a good idea to have the registration document with you, although it is quite likely that a French policeman won't recognise it as in France any trailer of 750kg or more has to be registered just like a car and has a separate vehicle registration document.

 

Everyone should have a European Health Insurance Card. In practice you may well have to pay for treatment and then reclaim what you have paid out when you get home. The EHIC isn't a substitute for insurance cover but it does get you into the system so you can be treated.

 

Even though original documents need to be carried, it is advisable to take photocopies including your passports and credit cards, leaving a set with somebody that you can contact in an emergency and taking a set with you separate from the originals, in case anything gets lost or stolen.

 

Equipping your Car

 

Your headlights need to be adjusted/switched to the European pattern (dipping straight down rather than to the left) or have appropriate deflectors for the headlights so that you do not dazzle other motorists. Home grown solutions with electrical tape might not pass muster under a gendarme's scrutiny and could also damage you lights.

 

If you don't have Euro registration plates (Blue panel with a circle of 12 stars and GB on it) you will need to have have a GB plate on your vehicle and caravan.

 

The following are legal requirements:

  • Emergency triangle for the car and another if you have a trailer or caravan with gross laden weight of 500kg or more.

  • Reflective safety jacket for the driver and this must be kept somewhere accessible to the driver while in the car (door pocket, glove box for instance).

  • When towing fit extending/additional mirrors if you need them to be able to see a vehicle that is overtaking and to eliminate any "blind spot" caused by the caravan.

  • No speed camera notifications on your Sat Nav or other means of detecting speed cameras.

  • NF approved breathalyser kit, see below about the current situation regarding penalties.

 

The following are not legally required in France but are prudent precautions and may be obligatory in other countries:

  • Fire extinguisher

  • First aid kit.

  • Replacement bulbs - although if you haven't got them or don't know how to replace a bulb you may find that you are not allowed to proceed on your journey in the event of being stopped because of a bulb failure.

  • Spare wheel - again you may find that you are not allowed to proceed if one of your tyres does not conform to the law (tread depth, pressure etc.) and you can't replace it. A tyre pump is a good idea as well.

  • Reflective safety jacket for each passenger

  • Replacement fuses.

  • Spare driving glasses

 

Driving Licences

 

The earliest you can pass the test to drive a car in France is 18 years of age. So even if you passed your driving test in the UK at the age of 17, you still cannot drive in France until you are 18 and have an unrestricted licence (a provisional licence is not enough).

 

Provided your full licence was issued by an EU state or one of the other countries that France has an agreement with, you don't need an International Driving Permit otherwise you must have one. In 50 odd years of being taken to France or driving in France myself I have never come across a problem with a British driving licence not even pre-EEC days and the dark red booklet style UK licence.

 

If you have had your full driving licence for less than three years you must abide by the speed limits defined for probationary drivers; N. B. two years only applies if you obtained your licence under the French learner driver scheme Conduite Accompagnée (accompanied driving):

  • 110 km/h in place of 130 kph autoroute limit;

  • 100 km/h in place of a lower autoroute limit and on dual carriageways;

  • 80 km/h on other roads.

  • Probationary drivers are also obliged to show an "A" plate at the rear of the vehicle, probably at the back of the trailer/caravan if towing (one of the things I will check at our local Gendarmerie) and an "A" plate must only be displayed when the probationary driver is driving.

 

Rule of the road

 

Don't forget that give way to traffic coming from the right still applies unless the road markings/signs show otherwise.

 

If you are driving a vehicle or vehicle/trailer combination of 3500 kg or more you must leave 50 metres between you and vehicles in front.

 

Pedestrians have priority provided they are showing a clear intention to cross the road. This is not restricted to pedestrian crossings. However, if there is a pedestrian crossing within 50 metres pedestrians are obliged to use it to cross the road.

 

The rules for positioning and signalling when negotiating a roundabout are basically the same as they are in the UK although you wouldn't think so. Roundabouts didn't appear to any great extent in France until the 70s/80s and there are many drivers on the road who have passed their test without ever encountering one. Caution at roundabouts and a certain scepticism on what everybody else is signalling/doing is prudent.

 

Speed Limits

 

Speed limits are varied and at times confusing. The basic rules out of town are:

  • Péages and other autoroutes where indicated, are 130 kph, but this is reduced in bad weather to 110 km/h.

  • Autoroutes not signed for 130 km/h and dual carriageways with a central reservation are 110 km/h (100 kph in bad weather).

  • Main roads are 80 km/h since a reduction from 90km/h in 2018.

The above speed limits are for vehicles of less than 3,500kg Maximum Authorised Mass (MTM) even if towing a trailer/caravan provided that the Gross Train Weight (GTW) specified for the towing vehicle is less than 3,500kg.

 

In a town or village no matter how small (between the sign at the entry through to the exit sign) a maximum of 50 km/h applies unless otherwise indicated, you may or may not get 50 km/h limit signs or repeaters but the limit is there nonetheless. The exception to this is the Paris périphérique where an 80 km/h limit applies.

 

There may well be a 70 km/h limit before/after the town/village and there are often 40 or 30 km/h limits, particularly near schools, hospitals etc.

 

If the GTW specified for the towing vehicle is 3,500kg or greater the out of town limits become:

  • 90 km/h on autoroutes

  • 90 km/h on dual carriageways with a central reservation

  • 80 km/h elsewhere

In town a maximum speed of 50 km/h applies even if a higher limit is indicated with the exception of the Paris périphérique where the 80 km/h limit still applies.

 

It seems possible that basing this limit on the GTW may not have been intended and should have been based on the MAM of the towing vehicle plus the Maximum Technically Permissible Laden Mass (MTPLM) of the trailer. A similar definition used to determine what class of licence is required to tow has just been changed. However, there is no indication that this definition as regards maximum speed allowed will be changed.

 

Checks on vehicle loading, tyre pressures etc. whether towing or not are commonplace along autoroutes and major roads on tourist routes during the summer.

 

Note. Even if your registration document doesn't show the different weights (MAM, GTW etc.) the French authorities have access to them for all cars that have a European wide homolugation at least. My UK registered car only had the service weight on the V5. When I imported it to France all the other weights appeared on my French registration document.

 

A vehicle subject to these limits must show that they are, this is done by affixing at the rear two white discs showing the figures 90 and 80 respectively.

 

If you are towing a caravan you also need to know the maximum speed it is homolugated for and not exceed that. For instance 'vans originally homolugated in France will have a maximum speed rating of 100km/h, 'vans from Germany will have a speed rating of 100 km/h unless they don't meet certain German stability and safety regulations when they will be rated at 80 km/h.

 

If visibility is less than 50 metres a limit of 50 km/h overrides all other higher limits.

 

If you are on a three lane autoroute or dual carriageway an outfit weighing 3,500kg or more must not use the leftmost (fast) lane, there is a minimum speed of 80km/h which applies to the middle lane. The 80 kph minimum speed also applies to the leftmost (fast) lane on a two lane autoroute or dual carriageway.

 

Confiscation of your driving licence

 

Your licence may be confiscated by the police for up to 72 hours for: driving under the influence of alcohol or apparent influence of drugs/alcohol; exceeding the speed limit by 40km/h or more; or if you are involved in a fatal accident and the police suspect that you have committed an offence such as speeding or ignoring the rules relating to overtaking or priority at a junction.

 

If nobody else is qualified or able to drive the vehicle will be impounded.

 

Speed Cameras

 

The French authorities are determined to curb excessively fast driving, if for no other reason than the number of accidents it causes and the cost, both direct and indirect, to the country.

 

The speed cameras currently in use are either:

  • fixed speed cameras; signposting of these had been stopped and existing signposting progressively removed but in typical Gallic style the current government has decided to reverse this policy and install signposting for all new fixed speed cameras. There are about 2200 installed;

  • average speed cameras are starting to be installed on main routes in dangerous areas (bends, descents . .) or where an accident may have disproportionate consequences (tunnels, viaducts). There are about 40 in place;

  • mobile speed cameras operating from the back of an unmarked estate car (often a Renault Laguna), or less frequently a policeman with a hand-held speed gun. There are nearly 1000 operating;

  • The latest is unmarked cars with a speed camera that can check speeds while they are under way. They use infra-red flashes so you don't know you have been photographed. There is a slightly greater tolerance allowed; 10 km/h for 100km/h or less, 10% for greater than 100km/h as opposed to 5 km/h and 5% for other speed cameras. There are currently 20.

  • There are also advisory speed cameras which show your speed on a panel as you approach, many of these, but not all, are followed by fixed speed camera. Nearly 2000 have been installed.

If you are stopped for speeding you can be fined on the spot and the fines have to be paid in cash there and then if you cannot prove that you are domiciled or working in France. If you cannot pay your car can be impounded.

 

If you are caught by a speed camera don't think you will automatically get away with it because you have a foreign registered car, you could find a penalty notice waiting for you when you get home.

 

Driving Lights

 

You must use side lights and dipped headlights at least at night or in poor visibility.

 

Front and rear fog lights can only be used when it is foggy or snowing (not when it is raining no matter how heavily).

 

You may use the front fog lights outside towns/villages as driving lights. You must switch them off if you meet, follow or overtake another vehicle.

 

People will flash their lights rapidly if they want the right of way or that they are coming up quickly behind you. These days this practice is not the courtesy that it once was and is most often reserved to those drivers who drive too fast and too close so the best thing to do is just get out of their way.

 

The French may use hand gestures or a single headlamp flash to indicate that you should proceed ahead of them.

 

Seat Belts

 

Every passenger must wear a seatbelt where fitted unless the passenger is obviously unable to or medically excused from wearing one. Passengers (children included) cannot share a seat belt. It is illegal for a child under the age of 10 to be in the front passenger seat unless: there aren't any rear seats; none of the rear seats have seat belts; all the rear seats are already occupied by children under 10. There are other rules governing the use of booster cushions and rear facing baby seats.

 

The 10 years old rule is not absolute but also takes into account the size/weight of the child (bigger child but under 10 or smaller child who is over 10 for instance).

 

Drinking and Driving

 

The legal limit of alcohol in the blood is . 5g per litre. In practice you should think about a policy of not drinking and driving to be on the safe side, as the penalties for drink driving are severe, including having your licence confiscated. If you are above . 8g per litre (the UK limit) you can have your licence confiscated, fined 4,500 Euros and even imprisoned.

 

The police often carry out spot checks and random breath tests.

 

The situation as regards carrying the breathalyser kits is that the law has come into effect but there is an indefinite suspension of any penalties for not complying. Considerable concern has been expressed about what the law is trying to achieve and the wastage caused by breathalyser kits which are time expired after 2 years.

 

We carry them but have never been asked to show that we do, but it is not worth the potential hassle just to save a couple of Euros.

 

Breakdowns

 

If you happen to breakdown whilst in France, you should switch on your hazard flashers, put on your fluorescent safety vest and put out at least one warning triangle at least 30 metres from the scene so that it is visible 100 metres from the vehicle. For example, if you have broken down less than 100 metres after a bend the warning triangle should be put out before the bend.

 

The exceptions to putting out the warning triangle are on an autoroute, if you are stopped on the hard shoulder and not obstructing the carriageway or if doing so would put your life in danger.

 

If you have a trailer or caravan with a gross laden weight of 500kg or more and you have to leave it by the roadside for any reason you also have to mark it with a warning triangle in the same way.

 

If you are on an autoroute or dual carriageway keep yourself and your passengers behind the crash barriers. If possible make sure everybody gets out on the side furthest away from the traffic. If you breakdown in the fast lane get everybody out of the vehicle and between the barriers on the central reservation, do not try and cross to the hard shoulder.

 

If you need assistance and you are on an autoroute then you phone for help using one of the emergency telephones (every 2 kilometres along the autoroute). Even if you are in an autoroute service area, you must still call for assistance using an emergency phone or asking at the services.

 

Autoroute assistance charges are fixed by the government. The breakdown companies that can operate on the autoroutes have to be licensed by the autoroute companies. Even if you have your own breakdown/emergency cover you will have to wait until you are off the autoroute before this cover can be used.

 

Accidents

 

In France you must provide assistance to a person in distress and doing so does not put your life or the lives of others in danger. Use an emergency phone to call for help or use your mobile and phone 112. Make sure you can describe where you are and what has happened, the appropriate emergency services will be sent to the scene. This obligation is part of the general Penal Code and not restricted to traffic accidents, failure to do so can result in prosecution and a substantial fine.

 

If you are involved in an accident and it is serious enough then call the police straight away, if somebody has been injured you must call the police. Having an accident statement form and completing that will make it easier when it comes to notifying your insurance company as will any photographs you take.

 

Use your hazard flashers, fluorescent jacket and warning triangle in the same way that you would for a breakdown.

 

I hope this helps and if anybody wants any clarification or the references for the source material let me know. Happy touring.

 

Grahame.

 

P. S. I've attached this as a pdf in case anybody wants to print it out.

Driving in France V2. pdf

  • Like 4
  • Thanks 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Thanks Grahame, that is excellent :goodpost:

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Thanks Grahame. Knew some, needed to be reminded of some, and some was new. Good to have it all in one place,and now printed off.

 

Gordon

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Thanks. A useful document.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Yup usefull document.

I will be sending it to my relatives that live in France-they only carry their dog in their car in France.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

 

Driving in France.

 

A vehicle subject to these limits must show that they are, this is done by affixing at the rear two white discs showing the figures 90 and 80 respectively.

 

If you are towing a caravan you also need to know the maximum speed it is homolugated for and not exceed that. For instance 'vans originally homolugated in France will have a maximum speed rating of 100kph, 'vans from Germany will have a speed rating of 100 kph unless they don't meet certain German stability and safety regulations when they will be rated at 80 kph.

 

 

 

An excellent piece of work.

 

 

Just two comments though.

 

The French Government has confirmed 80/90 discs are only required on French registered outfits but the limits still apply.

 

Not sure where the homulgation of caravan speeds comes from. Do you have a link to any legislation?

 

Almost all E. U. built caravans have a maximum design speed of 100 kph based on the caravan chassis and running gear nearly all of which comes from three (German) manufacturers.

 

Almost all countries have imposed maximum towing speed limits that are lower than 100 kph but France has no general speed limit imposed when towing so, in theory, 130 kph is permitted and in Belgium 120 kph is permitted.

 

Germany permits 100 kph on autobahns only providing the outfit meets Tempo 100 requirements.(stabiliser coupling, dampers etc)

 

 

Interestingly, ADAC state that in France and Belgium in an accident involving a speed in excess of 100 kph whilst towing the insurance will be restricted by the 100 kph design limit.

 

In France, outfits over 3500 kg combined weight or caravans over 7m body length are not permitted use the autoroute third lane.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Anyone know whether an "A" plate is necessary when driving in France for a 19 year old with less than two years driving experience and if so what is an "A" plate

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Hi arborlinden I think you will find out the answer to your question in the OP's heading driving licenses!

Kind regards Andrew.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Anyone know whether an "A" plate is necessary when driving in France for a 19 year old with less than two years driving experience and if so what is an "A" plate

 

 

Only applies to French residents who hold a probationary licence with code 106.

 

A UK resident who has passed a test holds a full UK licence immediately.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

 

 

Only applies to French residents who hold a probationary licence with code 106.

 

A UK resident who has passed a test holds a full UK licence immediately.

thank you. wouldn't want grandson to end up in the Bastille!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I believe the Bastille was stormed 226 years ago last Tuesday, so no risk he will end up there ;)

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Very useful that. I always thought all passengers had to legally have a reflective jacket and not just the driver, so good to know.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Very useful that. I always thought all passengers had to legally have a reflective jacket and not just the driver, so good to know.

Does anyone who exits the car need a viz?

Edited by damoleeds

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Does anyone who exits the car need a viz?

Probably do actually, that would make sense.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Does anyone who exits the car need a viz?

It is sensble for passengers to wear one but it isn't mandatory.

knarf

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Cheers Knark

 

Had to buy my daughter one when we went to France last year. No legal reason, she just wanted one :)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The law requires the driver to put on the vest before exiting the vehicle and on an autoroute to put on the vest and exit the vehicle the passenger side. vrtually impossible in my case!

knarf

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Cracking set of tips. Very useful, just a pity some Brits didn't read that when coming steaming past me at 75mph with a twin axle and 4x4

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I agree, this is an excellent topic.

 

I would add only one thing. When the road sign says STOP then you must stop. I know this sounds a basic rule but even on deserted country roads the lads in blue have a nasty habit of observing from a distance and if you don't stop the next thing you know is that a large Gendarme motor cycle will appear, sometimes they hunt in pairs and they will require cash for the fixed penalty fine.

 

Yes! First hand experience - €95 poorer.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I agree, this is an excellent topic.

 

I would add only one thing. When the road sign says STOP then you must stop. I know this sounds a basic rule but even on deserted country roads the lads in blue have a nasty habit of observing from a distance and if you don't stop the next thing you know is that a large Gendarme motor cycle will appear, sometimes they hunt in pairs and they will require cash for the fixed penalty fine.

 

Yes! First hand experience - €95 poorer.

 

Two seconds minimum is recommended. ...

 

and they are always in pairs or threes (must say they always look smart in breeches, leather boots, shirtsleeves and shades)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

An excellent piece of work.

 

 

Just two comments though.

 

The French Government has confirmed 80/90 discs are only required on French registered outfits but the limits still apply.

 

Not sure where the homulgation of caravan speeds comes from. Do you have a link to any legislation?

 

Almost all E. U. built caravans have a maximum design speed of 100 kph based on the caravan chassis and running gear nearly all of which comes from three (German) manufacturers.

 

Almost all countries have imposed maximum towing speed limits that are lower than 100 kph but France has no general speed limit imposed when towing so, in theory, 130 kph is permitted and in Belgium 120 kph is permitted.

 

Germany permits 100 kph on autobahns only providing the outfit meets Tempo 100 requirements.(stabiliser coupling, dampers etc)

 

 

Interestingly, ADAC state that in France and Belgium in an accident involving a speed in excess of 100 kph whilst towing the insurance will be restricted by the 100 kph design limit.

 

In France, outfits over 3500 kg combined weight or caravans over 7m body length are not permitted use the autoroute third lane.

Not quite right about no speed limit in France when towing.

If the towing vehicle Gross Train Weight (ie manufacturers gross weight limit plus the maximum towing limit) is over 3500 kg, then towing is limited to 90kph on motorways and dual carriageways.

That applies irrespective of the actual weight of the trailer. The important thing is that many family saloons will have a GTW that exceeds 3500 kg, not just 4x4's.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Thanks. Mrs Candlefish made me buy the breathalysers for our drive from Dunkirk to Belgium. 30 minutes in France?

I shall test them near the end of their best-before date!

At least we were legal!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Very useful that. I always thought all passengers had to legally have a reflective jacket and not just the driver, so good to know.

 

There was a post on here recently where it was stated that there must be a high viz vest per seat, not per person. Unfortunately I can't find it but I think it was from an ex-pat who had been fined for insufficient vests. :(

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

There was a post on here recently where it was stated that there must be a high viz vest per seat, not per person. Unfortunately I can't find it but I think it was from an ex-pat who had been fined for insufficient vests. :(

At under £2 on eBay it's not worth the risk not to all wear them if required.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Restore formatting

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

Sign in to follow this  



×
×
  • Create New...