Driving tips for France

By Andy Burrows

French road rules

French traffic police are strict and you can expect an on-the-spot fine if caught speeding, are parked illegally or commit any manner of motoring offences. The minimum age you can get behind the wheel in France is 18 years and drivers must always have their full, valid license and insurance documents to hand.

Despite the often lax laws regarding the wearing of seatbelts in other European countries, all passengers must wear their seatbelts, including the rear seat passengers, while children under 10 years are not allowed to travel in the front.

Important points to remember for those bringing their cars from other countries, especially for the UK and Ireland, is that French law dictates that a red warning triangle be carried at all times in case of emergency during breakdown, Euro registration plates should in place and right-hand-drive cars have headlamp deflectors fitted.

Drink driving
Don’t even think about driving after having a drink. It’s not even worth risking just the one as the 0.5mg/ml blood/alcohol limit is one of the strictest in Europe and French traffic police are particularly tough on drink driving offenders.

French roads

Motorways in France, known as autoroutes a peage, are usually tolled and quite pricey to travel on for any great distance, yet they easily offer the most efficient way to get about and are of very high quality. The autoroutes are marked with an ‘A’ and tolls can be paid for by card or cash.

Main roads
‘N’ roads and ‘D’ roads - routes nationales and routes departementales respectively – are next best to the autoroutes. They cover the majority of the country, sometimes offering a better driving experience than the motorways being closer to the country, and are free.

French speed limits

Urban areas: 50kph/31mph
Rural roads: 90kph/55mph
110kph/69mph - on non-toll motorways
Motorways: 130kph/80mph

French fuel costs (euros per litre)

Unleaded: 1.33 €/l
Lead replacement: 1.30 €/l
Diesel: 1.00 €/l

Unleaded petrol is known locally as sans plomb, while lead replacement petrol (leaded is not sold in France) is typically super ARS. Like most other countries, diesel is significantly cheaper than petrol. France is big on auto fuel dispensers, although these only accept domestic debit cards, whereas standard petrol stations will accept international credit and debit cards.

French road safety
The emergency telephone number is 17 if you breakdown on an autoroute, although you can also use this elsewhere if you cannot find a garage for instance. Autoroutes have emergency telephones posted every two kilometres and rest areas every 10 or 15 kilometres. France online holiday rentals Those on long journeys should plan on taking a break at least every hour or so.

Taking out comprehensive motor insurance cover before driving in France is a must and it would also be a good idea to become a member of your local motoring organisation, many of which will offer cover or reciprocal agreements with their French counterparts.

French roads are busy with local and tourist traffic year round, but especially so before and after the school holidays and during the ski season in the Alps. Carry snow chains if you plan on visiting the latter and heed local weather and road information.

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