Driving in France: How to stay out of trouble

Driving in France might seem simple, but foreign motorists, especially Anglos can get in plenty of trouble here, thanks in part to the unique or lesser-known rules of la route. We've put together a list of those you need to know to avoid a police fine (or a crash) this summer.

Driving in France: How to stay out of trouble
Here's how to avoid a ticket on French roads this summer. Photo: Philippe Huguen/AFP

As Anglo tourists pack their bags for a trip to France’s beautiful beaches this summer, French police will be doing a bit of preparation themselves.

They’ll be lying in wait for the British drivers, some of whom it seems, have come to believe that anything goes on this side of the English Channel.

“French police made it clear earlier this year that they would be targeting speeding British motorists,” Tim Shallcross, from the UK-based drivers' charity Institute of Advanced Motorists, told The Local. “There is a perception amongst British motorists that you can do what you like in France and the worst you’ll get is an on-the-spot fine."

Perceptions aside, there’s also a very real reason French police have an incentive to come down hard on British drivers. Last year the UK, Ireland and Denmark were the only three European countries that opted out of a new European Union directive that would have made it very difficult for drivers to escape the penalties of bad driving abroad.

Under the innocent enough sounding ‘EU Directive on Road Safety’ it’s easier for governments to track down rogue drivers in their home nation and send them a fine. For the moment, Britain and Ireland have opted out of the directive, (although the UK may soon be forced to opt in with a new directive apparently being drawn up) so police in France have only one way to be sure justice will be done: on-the-spot fines.

So with British drivers, identified by their ‘GB’ number plates, having something of a reputation and a French police force not too keen to see them get away scot-free, it can spell trouble for holidaying motorists each summer.

The quiet autoroutes (motorways) that head to the south of France often prove too tempting for foreign drivers in a rush to get to the sun, but speeding is just one of a number of offences drivers can make on France’s ‘routes’.

What is the legal limit for drink driving? How fast can you drive when its raining? What does “priorité à droite” mean?

In order to answer these questions and pull back the veil on French traffic laws that could easily lead to trouble with the local gendarmes (or worse) The Local has gathered and explained the regulations you need to know.

Driving in France: How to stay out of trouble on French roads

Share your experiences of driving in France. Have you ever been in trouble with the road police over here?

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