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France - Driving

In order to drive in France you need to be at least 18 years of age. To drive unsupervised you need to have a valid driving licence and insurance no matter which type of vehicle you are driving.

There are a number of regulations that must be adhered to when driving in France. The French drive on the right hand side of the road and seatbelts must be worn if they are fitted in the vehicle. Children below the age of 10 must travel in the back seat of the car and must have a child seat if appropriate. It is illegal to use a mobile telephone while you are driving unless you use it with a hands free system. You are also legally obliged to keep with you a number of documents such as your driver’s licence, details of car registration and your insurance information. You must have insurance that covers you for third parties.

You are legally obliged to keep in the car a red warning triangle that can be placed at a safe distance from the car to warn other drivers in the event that your car breaks down or you are involved in an accident. You should also have with you a high visibility jacket and you need to wear this if your car has stopped for either of these reasons. This is so that other drivers can see you clearly when you are setting the triangle into place. The triangle must be placed at least 30 metres from the car. You can receive a separate fine for each item if you do not have them.

France has several different speed limits in place depending upon the type of road. The motorway (autoroute) has a 130km/h speed limit in good weather but this reduces to 110km/h in rainy conditions. If you are on one of the expressways the speed limit is 110km/h but reduced to 100km/h when it is raining. Those on a dual carriageway or single lane carriageway with central reservation can travel at the same speeds as those on the expressways. Regional roads have a maximum speed limit of 90km/h in good weather and 80km/h in the rain. Those driving in built-up areas and in poor visibility conditions should limit their speed to a maximum of 50km/h.

France employs speed cameras as a traffic controlling measure and these can be either fixed or mobile. The website of the Securite Routiere publishes details of the locations of these cameras. Warning signs are placed at intervals along roads that are monitored by speed cameras. If you want information on the traffic conditions you can consult the Bison Fute website which gives details of accidents and road works.

Right of way while driving in a built up area is given to traffic joining the road from the right, unless they encounter a stop sign or are instructed to give way. When you use the motorways in France you will find that they are toll roads. These are run by different companies and most will accept several forms of payment such as cash, credit card or subscription service.

If you are involved in an accident in France you need to contact the police immediately and the emergency services will call for an ambulance. An accident report form (constat à l’amiable) will need to be completed and you will need to give your insurance details to the other driver. You will then need to keep the blue copy of the report form in the car.

Driving under the influence of alcohol is an offence in France and the maximum limit is 0.5 grams per litre. Up to 0.8 g/l you can be fined and lose 6 points from your licence. Above that level and you could find yourself in prison for up to 2 years as well as a number of other penalties. If you should have an accident while you are driving under the influence of alcohol then the fines and sentences will be greatly increased.

It should be noted that if you are driving on a foreign licence or an EU licence when you need to have points removed you will be obliged to exchange it for a French licence in order for the process to be completed.

Useful Resources

Ministere des Transports (Ministry of Transport)
Arche de la Defense
Sous-direction de la Formation du Conducteur
Tel: 00 33 14081 82 48 (or 82 12 or 81 87)

Read more about this country

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