One of the best ways to enjoy your trip in France is to drive. It gives the liberty and the flexibility you need to explore France's numerous and stunning scenic views, however, it is of great importance to know the basic road rules to ensure a safe and stress-free journey. Here are some of the things to keep in mind while driving in France:
Before getting your hands on that steering wheel, make sure that you carry with you these important documents:
A Driver's License. A fully valid drivers license, with proof on paper, is a must if you don’t want any problem with the law. International driving permits are recognized but are not mandatory. Remember though that in France, the minimum age required to drive is 18 and not being able to comply with this requirement nullifys any license you hold.
Proof of Ownership. If you are driving your own car, it is necessary to carry your vehicle’s registration certificate with you wherever you go. When asked for your carte grise, or grey card, it should always be available and ready for inspection so as to prevent unnecessary inconvenience during your trip.
Proof of Insurance. Another document you should always bring with you when using your car is your vehicle’s proof of insurance. Note that third-party coverage is mandatory.
While driving around France, all drivers are required by law to carry the following items:
Reflective Jacket. One reflective or high-visibility jacket must be kept within the driver’s reach. It should be available and should be worn before getting out of the car in case of emergency such as car breakdown.
Warning Triangle. Another obligatory item to keep in your car in case of such emergency is a warning triangle. Any vehicle with four wheels or more are mandated to carry a red reflective triangle that could be used as a warning sign behind an immobilized car.
Headlamp Beam Deflectors. These deflectors are basically needed when driving at night. You can adjust your car’s beam manually or use stickers.
Breathalysers or Alcohol Level Test. Unlike the first three that involve on-the-spot fines should you fail to carry them, breathlysers are compulsory but no penalty is mandated by the law.
The first thing to know about driving in France is that people here are driving on the right-hand side of the road. You can even still encounter intersections that implement the old policy Priorite a Droite or giving priority to vehicles coming from the right. Take note of other important road regulations that can guide and help you wander the roads of France.
Seat belts. Be sure to remember that it is mandatory for the driver and all his passengers to wear seat belts, meaning both front and rear seatbelts. Drivers should also be aware that it is illegal for children, specifically under 10, to occupy the front seat. It is their responsibility to ensure that children are buckled up in the back seat or in a secured child seat if they weigh 15 kg or less.
Speed Limits. Speed limits in France vary depending on areas of concentration, traffic build-up and weather conditions. Urban areas allow 50 km/hr, while rural ones tolerate from 80 km/hr up to 90 km/hr. Urban motorways or dual carriageways maintain 100-110 km/hr while autoroutes can have as fast as 130 km/hr. It would help to remember that there are hefty penalties for speeding and breaking these limits. You can also lose your license should you drive 30 km/hr over the specified limit or get your car confiscated if you go over 50 km/hr.
Parking. Look for blue and yellow lines, they indicate where to and not to park. A dotted yellow line means parking is prohibited while a continuous yellow line means both stopping and parking are prohibited. Blue zone parking areas, on the other hand, offer free parking for a given period of time (look for the parking sign to know the length of allowable time). Just be mindful of the time and of displaying a parking disc or you might find yourself penalized by a police officer. Usually, stopping and parking are allowed on the right-hand side of two-lane roads. Failure to follow parking rules will lead to towing and impounding of your car.
Fuel. Out of gas? No worries since motorway service stations operate round the clock. But it is important to bear mind that supermarket petrol stations offer cheaper gas.
Overtaking. It is prohibited to overtake stationary trams that are boarding passengers.