Are the French really bad drivers?

Ben McPartland
Ben McPartland - [email protected]
Are the French really bad drivers?
File photo: Frédéric Bisson

Many tourists or expats who have had experience of driving in France would probably admit to having cursed the actions of French drivers at some point or another. A new survey suggests they may have good reason to do so.


Whether it’s not stopping at traffic lights or overtaking on the wrong side, a new survey this week revealed more and more French drivers are not respecting the rules of the road.

According to the conclusions of a survey by TNS Sofres for Axa Insurance, four out of ten French drivers are "bad" ones.

BFMTV points out the survey shows the French are becoming more and more “undisciplined” at the wheel, after 60 percent of those polled revealed they did not respect the rules.

It’s a conclusion that is fiercely disputed by Pierre Chasseray, president of French drivers' group “40 millions d’automobilistes”.

“The French are sensible drivers. They don’t want to die on the road or cause an accident that kills someone,” Chasseray told The Local.

“Overall the French respect the rules but obviously from time to time people don’t.”

The survey suggests the problem may be more serious than that.

Of those asked, 45 percent admitted they don’t stop at a traffic light when it is on orange, and 45 percent also admit they break the speed limit when driving in towns.

For those who might complain that drivers in France do not indicate when overtaking or turning, they might well be right, as the survey revealed one out of two drivers don’t bother doing it.

Perhaps even more worryingly, although 77 percent of drivers consider drink driving dangerous, as many as 26 percent admit to having done it.

France has made efforts to tackle drink driving in recent years, the latest measure being a requirement to keep a breathalyzer kit in all cars. The Axa survey, however, revealed only 9 percent of drivers actually carry one, though this may in part be linked to confusion over the law.

Using a mobile phone at the wheel appears to be becoming more of an accepted habit for French drivers, with 76 percent of respondents believing it is dangerous, compared to 90 percent last year.

The survey, however, may not reveal the full story of French drivers. For despite the “incivilities” and disobeying of the rules, the number of deaths on French roads dropped by 7 percent last year.

“This is the only statistic that matters,” Chasseray said. “The only real rule of the road is to keep your eyes open, be aware and make sure there are no accidents.”

What is your experience of driving in France? Let us know in the comments section below.


Comments (1)

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Anonymous 2019/09/06 17:33
As a US citizen who has driven extensively in France’s major cities and throughout the country’s alluring countryside, I’ve found French drivers to be quite respectful and rather patient. I am far more wary and mistrustful of drivers in the US and feel much safer driving in Paris than I ever do in any urban American environment.

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