What you need to know when driving in France

July 16, 2015 | By | In Buying Guides
What you need to know when driving in France

France has long been one of the top European holiday destinations for UK travellers. With its beautiful scenery, fantastic food and sunny summers you can see why lots of people would want to spend their hard-earned holidays there.

With the ease-of-use of the Eurotunnel and car ferries alike, why not take your car to explore France and all it has to offer? Here’s our handy run-down of the key things you need to know when driving ‘dans le France’.

What you need to keep by law

When driving in France you must be at least 18 years old and it is your responsibility to ensure you and all of your passengers are wearing seatbelts at all times. Additionally, it is the law in France to carry the following items in your car at all times:

– A valid UK driving licence (even though the rules on counterpart driving licences have changed in the UK, it might be worthwhile keeping hold of them if you wish to drive abroad). If you’re hiring a car, don’t forget to generate a licence check code so that the hire company can access your driving record. Codes can be generated on the gov.uk website in advance and will be valid for 21 days

– Your passport

– Your V5 registration form, insurance certificate or your hire car paperwork, as well as an MOT certificate if your vehicle is more than three years old

– A GB sticker on the back of the car, if it’s UK registered

– A warning triangle

– Headlamp converters

– A reflective jacket

– Breathalysers/ alcohol test

Other considerations

In addition to the items you need to keep by law, there are also some useful nuggets of information to bear in mind while navigating the roads in France. Here are our top five tips:

1. In an emergency, think orange. French law states that motorists must not call their own assistance company if they break down on a motorway or toll road. Instead you must use one of the orange emergency phones situated every 2km along the road. The phone will allow you to call the police or the official breakdown service in operation wherever you are. Charges for assistance on a motorway are fixed by the Government.

2. No arguing over the front seat! Children under the age of ten aren’t allowed to sit in the front seat of a car unless they have a special child restraint. The rules regarding children’s car seats are also different in France compared to here in the UK. Rather than being dictated by weight, children are expected to be in an appropriate seat or restraint until they are over ten years old. 

3. Be careful to avoid an on-the-spot fine. Some French police authorities are able to deliver on-the-spot fines of up to 375 Euros, gutting when you’d rather spend that hard-earned money on enjoying your holiday. Behave and save those pennies!

4. Hold off on that lovely French wine! The legal limit for drink driving in France is lower than here at 50mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood. With a penalty of up to 1,500 Euros it’s definitely worth waiting until the day is done to enjoy your favourite holiday tipple.

5. Avoid traffic light woes. Even though France operates a red, amber, green system as we do here, they work slightly differently in regards to what they mean: 

– There is no amber light after the red light

– Flashing amber light – caution, slow down, proceed but give way to vehicles coming from the right

– Flashing red light – no entry. It may also indicate a level crossing or exit used by emergency vehicles

– Yellow arrow at the same time as a red light indicates – proceed in the direction indicated by the arrow but give way to vehicles travelling in the flow of traffic that you are entering and to pedestrians

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