French drivers fear other drivers – and Italians

French drivers find nothing more terrifying than other French drivers, a new poll has found. Also, Spanish drivers are big on their horns, and everyone’s afraid of the Italians.

French drivers fear other drivers - and Italians
What do Europe's drivers think of each other? File photo: Alan Cleaver

French and Germans motorists (67%) find common ground in their willingness to hurl abuse at other drivers, according to an Ipsos poll carried out on behalf of the Vinci Autoroutes foundation.

The French shared top spot with British drivers for admitting that they sometimes drove a few kilometres per hour over the legal speed limit.

French drivers were also acutely aware of the dangers of driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol, with a chart-topping 78 percent seeing this as the biggest cause of death on the road.

For the study, Ipsos interviewed 7,000 drivers in seven countries – France, Spain, Italy, Sweden, Belgium, Germany and the UK – to examine how they viewed their own driving and other people’s motor skills.

Asked to rate their own prowess behind the wheel, European drivers awarded themselves a generous 7.8 out of ten. Italians were especially happy self-satisfied, with a tidy eight out of ten.

This flew in the face of how other drivers saw Italians, with a whopping 50 percent slamming them as the least responsible motorists, way ahead of Spain (16%) in second and France (14%) in third place.

At the other end of the scale, other Europeans look on Swedes as the continent’s model drivers, with a 47 percent approval rating leaving German (26%) and British (13%) car owners trailing in the wake of their Volvo taillights.

“Traditionally Sweden is always cited as an example. Swedes benefit from a very beneficial reputation, and that’s understandable since they have the best results,” Bernadette Moreau, a spokeswoman for Vinci Autoroutes, told newspaper Le Dauphine.

Swedes fared less well on phone use, with 46 percent admitting to yapping with a phone held to their ear. Italians by contrast were the biggest users of hands-free kits at 66 percent.

And in a neat nod to age-old stereotypes, 63 percent of Spaniards admitted angrily honking the horn at drivers who irritated them, compared to 33 percent for the mild-mannered Swedes. 

'Crazy' French drivers: The real rules of the road in France

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Reader question: Can I buy or sell a car in France if I have a foreign driving licence?

You can drive in France for a certain amount of time with some foreign driving licences. But can you buy or sell a car with one and what other documents do you need?

Reader question: Can I buy or sell a car in France if I have a foreign driving licence?

Let’s start with the good news: a driving licence is not among the list of official documents needed to buy or sell a car in France – just to drive one.

But it’s likely that are asked to provide one when you buy a car.

In that case does what happens if you have a foreign rather than French licence?

We know by reading certain Facebook posts that this question often arises and some people have reported that they were wrongly asked for their French driving licence when buying a car and told that a UK licence, for example, wasn’t acceptable. 

Not having a French driver’s licence should not stop you from being able to buy a car in France.

Kim Cranstoun who runs the Facebook group ‘Applying for a French Driving Licence’ told The Local: “It’s a dealer issue, they have it fixed in their mind that you have to have a French licence mainly because they don’t understand the new agreement and the last thing they read was a UK licence was only valid until the end of 2021.

“As long as you have a valid UK licence you can purchase a car in France. Anyone going into a dealer with a valid UK licence should carry a copy of the agreement,” she said.

Interestingly a driving licence is not on the list of official documents you need to buy a car (see below) but dealer’s will often ask for it if they take charge of registering the car.

What does the seller need?

The seller is responsible for providing the car registration document, called the certificat d’immatriculation and known informally as the Carte Grise.

You must sign a certificat de cession (transfer certificate) along with the buyer, and then declare the sale on the ANTS website within 15 days. 

You should then receive a code de cession (transfer code) which you must also send to the buyer so they can register the vehicle in their name.

If the vehicle is second-hand and more than four-years old, the seller should also provide a recent roadworthiness certificate, proving that the vehicle has passed a contrôle technique (similar to an MoT in the UK), in the past six months.

What does the buyer need?

When you buy a car, you must sign a certificat de cession (transfer certificate) along with the previous owner, who has to declare the sale on the ANTS website within 15 days. 

The seller should then receive a code de cession (transfer code) which they must send you because you will need this to register the vehicle in your name. There is a fee, which usually falls to the buyer to pay for transferring a vehicle registration – which varies depending on the region, type of car, and its CO2 emissions. 

The previous certificat d’immatriculation (registration certificate – aka carte grise) needs to be struck through, and completed with the date of the sale and the seller’s signature.

You will then need to register the car in your name, which can be done online. You have one month to do this, otherwise you risk a fine of up to €750. 

If you are purchasing the car through a dealer, this transfer of registration will be done at the time of the purchase. Be aware, a dealer may ask for your driving licence as part of the process, but – as long as you hold a valid licence, whether it is French or not, you will still be able to go through with your purchase.

In fact, you can ask any certified garage to apply for the carte grise on your behalf, which could save on time and hassle, even if you didn’t buy the car from them.

When applying for a carte grise you will need to submit proof that the vehicle has undergone a contrôle technique (vehicle safety check) within the previous six months if the car is at least four years old.

To register the vehicle, you need the following official documents:

  • Identification (passport or identity card)

  • Proof of residence (typically a utility bill or rental receipt, less than six months old).

  • A copy of the Certificat d’immatriculation/Carte Grise with the appropriate section filled in.

  • The contrôle technique (CT) certificate, if required.

Buying a car with a loan

If you have the funds to buy the vehicle outright, you’ll have no problems – simply hand over the cheque at the appropriate time. It may be harder, however, to access financing for your vehicle if you’re not permanently resident in France.

Driving your new vehicle

If you plan to drive your car away that day, you will also be asked for a copy of a valid insurance certificate for the vehicle – in France, the vehicle is insured rather than the driver. 

Most car insurance companies will provide a provisional certificate to allow you to drive your new purchase. You will then need to finalise details and provide them with a copy of the Carte Grise when it arrives.

Driving licence

If you live permanently in France, sooner or later you may need to swap your driving licence for a French one – but where you learned to drive in the first place could dictate whether you have to take a French driving test. We cover that in depth here – including what’s changed for Britons in France after Brexit.

You can buy some vehicles – known as voitures sans permis – and drive them on some French roads without having a driving licence. Anyone born after 1988 must, however, hold a Brevet de sécurité routière, which has a 15-year limit, and the vehicles are speed limited and can only travel on certain routes.