Traditions - General Info

Driving in France – A few basic tips

This page was updated on: Wednesday, May 23, 2018 at: 8:10 pm

Driving in France - minimum age limit

General rules for driving in France are not that different from most other countries!

The legal age for driving in France is 18, but rules are stricter if you want to hire a car.

Some rental companies will expect you to be at least 21, others 25, so always check with them before hand.

You’ll need to have held a full driving license for at least a year (both for hiring or driving your own car.)

You’ll also need to show you passport for identification, your valid driving license and a valid credit card when picking up your hired car.

Compulsory equipment for driving in France

In all cases, always keep your driving license, insurance and registration documents with you in the car.

You’ll also be requested to carry a warning triangle, spare bulbs, a high-visibility jacket and headlamp converters (if your car isn't already fitted with them).

If you come from the EU and drive your own car, you’ll most likely have the EU registration plates; if not, or if you come from a non EU country, don’t forget to stick the relevant country code on the back of your car.

All hired cars companies must provide this equipment, however, double-check that none is missing before you set off; otherwise you’ll be liable when/if you’re stopped.

N.B. Breathalyzers are no more compulsory.

Here you are… driving in France

You’ve just landed from the ferry with your own car or picked one up one from a rental company.

But before you drive off…

The first thing you should focus on – especially if you come from the UK - is to DRIVE ON THE RIGHT HAND SIDE OF THE ROAD!

This means that:

You’ll OVERTAKE ON THE LEFT HAND SIDE, which is the fast lane.

You’ll ENTER A ROUNDABOUT TO THE RIGHT and will GIVE WAY TO CARS COMING FROM YOUR LEFT BEFORE ENGAGING.

However, you’ll HAVE TO GIVE WAY TO CARS COMING FROM YOUR RIGHT on roads or in town, unless a road sign or/and marking shows otherwise.

In general, major roads have priority on minor roads, and in all cases a road sign will tell you.

So read to the road signs and markings!

Driving in France with a French hired car also means that the gearbox will be on your right hand side.

Just for your information, French car rental companies have fewer automatic cars than manual, so book in advance to avoid disappointment!

You MUST WEAR A SEAT-BELT at all time, on the front and rear seats.

You CAN’T USE YOUR MOBILE PHONE, unless using a hands free system.

You CAN’T USE A CHILD CAR SEAT ON THE FRONT PASSENGER SEAT.

Failing to respect these rules will land you a fine - they vary from €90 to €135 – and cost you points on your driving license!

At what speed should you be driving in France?

You must adapt your speed to weather conditions and visibility.

Be aware that the speed limit on two-way roads will go from 90kmph down to 80kmph on 1st JULY 2018.

The speed limit on:

Dual carriageways - 110kmph and 100kmph when it rains or is wet.

Motorways - 130kmph and 110kmph when it rains or is wet.

N.B. Speed is limited to 50kmph on all roads when the visibility is less than 50m.

In town, the speed limit is 50kmph unless a road sign or/and marking shows otherwise – you'll often come across zones where you must drive at 20kmph, 30kmph, 70kmph etc....

Once more, read the road signs and markings.

Safety distance

The French road safety imposes a safety distance based on the speed of a vehicle and the one that precedes it; it corresponds to the distance covered in 2 seconds.

Of course, most of us find it quite tricky to work out the safety distance when driving!

When you drive on a motorway at 130kmph, you'll need 73m to brake, and on a dual carriageway 62m at 110kmph!

Quite spooky isn't it, so here's a brilliant way to work it out:

The discontinuous white lines painted between the right lane (slow lane!) and the emergency stop band are there to help you gauge your safety distance.

These 39m long white strips are spaced 13m apart.

The optimum safety distance between two vehicles corresponds to two white lines (39m + 13m + 39m = 91m).

A brilliant advertising campaign was put in place in 2001 when this measure took effect; the motto was:

"One strip = danger ... two strips = safety! "

Don’t forget!

Two or three wheels drivers must carry high viz jackets and wear them in an emergency or break down.

All drivers must wear glasses or contact lenses if the use of mandatory corrective lenses is mentioned on their driver's license; that said, it is not mandatory - but strongly recommended - to have a second pair of glasses in the glove box in case of loss!

UK-registered vehicles must comply with Low Emission Zones in Paris, Lyon and Grenoble.

Finally, the authorized limit of alcohol level is 0.5 g / L of blood, and 0.2 g / L for probationary licenses!

Bonne route

These rules are for your safety and that of your family, but also for other drivers'.

If you drive in France, chances are you're on vacation, so relax and take your time.

Our roads are superbly maintained and our road network is very extensive; driving in France is a real pleasure!

Finally, you only need to decide where to drive to because we're here to help you explore France's amazing regions and sites.

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