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DRIVING IN FRANCE

DRIVING

French drivers urged to be more courteous to others

The French are not exactly known for their civility towards other drivers, but can attitudes change?

French drivers urged to be more courteous to others
Photo: Trap Gosh/Flickr

There's perhaps a reason why France needs a grandly titled “International Courtesy at the Wheel Week”, even if there's nothing international about it.

Foreign drivers have long bemoaned the incivility of French drivers, whether it's driving so close to the car in front it looks like they are being towed or jumping red lights to cause a snarl-up at a junction. (SEE COMIC VIDEO BELOW)

And the French themselves, or at least France's road safety group, the French Association of Preventing Bad Behaviour on the Road (AFPC), seem to agree.

That's why the association is holding its 16th edition of the “International Courtesy at the Wheel” week, which essentially is aimed at improving manners on the road to make driving in France less stressful and far less dangerous at a time when road deaths are rising.

The president Régis Chomel de Jarnieu said the aim of the week is to raise awareness among the French about the dangers of not being courteous on the roads.

'Courtesy, which isn’t necessarily kindness, means behaving responsibly as an individual, which obviously helps improve safety on the roads,” said the president.

He blames the “catapult syndrome” which has taken hold in France, which he defines as “drivers being desperate to arrive even before they’ve set off”.

Chomel de Jarnieu wants French drivers to leave behind their stress and adopt a mood of serenity when they get behind the wheel.

“The vast majority of road users want to be zen. Stress, pressure, danger, accidents, who wants all that? We need to change, each and every one of us, not just ‘the others’.”

He pointed to a recent study that showed that 87 percent of drivers recognized that a courteous action by other drivers will encourage them too, to be more respectful to other drivers on the road.

“A simple gesture of courtesy or aggression can trigger a chain of events that will either create a pleasant climate to drive in, or make it more stressful and dangerous,” he said.

“We are all responsible.”

Last year, 3,464 people died in car accidents in France, a 2.4 percent jump from 2014. And according to AFPC, bad road manners play a big role in those statistics.

Earlier this year, The Local reported how new car stickers were available to senior citizen drivers in France, aimed at encouraging other drivers to be respectful.

The association is pleased that learner drivers will now be questioned about road courtesy in the obligatory driving theory test.

But Pierre Chasseray, the head of France's biggest motorists group, 40 Millions d'Automobilistes, believes French drivers don't need to be told to be more courteous more than any other nationality.

“I have seen the same kind of bad behaviour on the roads in the UK or in Italy,” Chasseray told The Local. “It's always good to talk about positive behaviour when driving but a French motorist is no worse than an Italian one or a British, German or Spanish one.”

Many expat drivers in France might be left spitting out their café au lait at that remark – as the article below suggests.

How French motorists drive expats mad

Chasseray did accept however that the historic loathing French people have for rules and regulations may play a part in the way they drive.

“There is a spirit of revolution among French people. They never like rules and actively like to go against them,” he said.

That would seem to include respecting red lights and no-parking signs.

The AFPC seems to agree and points to a survey that reveals how the French lament the ever-increasing restrictions on their individual liberties.

Some 68 percent of respondents to the survey pleaded for preventative measures to be introduced around driving, rather than repressive ones. But the fact that France is currently rolling out hundreds more speed cameras suggests the government has not heard their message.

 

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Driving in France: What is télépéage and how does it work?

Ever seen those drivers who avoid the queues at toll booths and driving straight through? Here's how they do it.

Driving in France: What is télépéage and how does it work?

If you’re driving on French autoroutes one of the things you need to know is that they are not free – you will have to pay regular tolls, payable at toll booths known as péage.

Usually, drivers pick up a ticket from a booth at the start of their journey, then pay the required amount at a booth at the end of it – or when they move onto a different section of autoroute – based on the distance they have travelled.

But the toll booths themselves can be busy, especially during the summer, and long queues sometimes build up.

READ ALSO 8 things to know about driving in France this summer

This is where automated pay systems – known as télépéage – come in, especially for those who use the motorway network regularly.

As well as allowing you to pass straight through péages without stopping for payment, it’s also very useful for owners of right-hand drive vehicles, who may otherwise find that they’re sitting on the wrong side for easy and speedy payment.

Here’s how it works

Order your télépéage badge online

Click on the Bip&Go website here and follow the instructions to order a scannable personalised device (up to a maximum of two per account for private users). You will need to set up an account to arrange electronic payment of charges.

The website is available in English, French, German or Dutch.

You will need to supply bank details (IBAN number), address (for delivery), mobile phone number (to activate your account) and the vehicle’s registration details.

Your badge will be dispatched to your address within 48 hours from the opening of your online account. You can have the device sent to addresses outside France, but allow longer for it to arrive. 

If you’re in France, you can also pick up the device at one of Bip&Go’s stores, if you prefer – you will need need your bank details, proof of identity and a mobile phone.

Attach your badge 

Place your device on on the windscreen to the right of the rearview mirror. It is activated and ready to go. Then, simply, drive.

At the péage

All toll booths are equipped with the sensors that recognise that the vehicle is carrying the necessary device. At most, you will have to stop briefly for the device to be recognised and the barrier to lift.

You will also be able to drive through certain booth areas without stopping. These are indicated by an orange t symbol on the overhead signs. The maximum speed you can pass through these booths is 30kph.

Payments

Payments are processed automatically. You can monitor the amounts you have to pay on an app.

Do I need separate badges for motorway networks run by different companies?

No. The badge allows holders to travel on the entire French motorway network, no matter which company manages the motorway, and you can also use it to cross a number of toll structures in France such as the Millau Viaduct, the Tancarville Bridge or the Normandie Bridge, and pay to park in more than 450 car parks. 

Is it only valid in France?

No, with certain packages, you can also as easily travel on motorways in Spain, Portugal and Italy, and use a number of compatible car parks. You can even use them on Italian ferries.

Okay, but how much does it cost?

Subscriptions to the Bip&Go service depend on what type of service you want. A fixed price rolling subscription is €16 a year – plus toll charges – but assumes you’re a regular user of French motorways. 

A pay-as-you-go subscription is €1.70 for every month the badge is in use – plus toll charges – and carries a €10 additional fee if the badge is not used in a 12-month period.

How much are the toll charges?

They depend on the road you’re on, how far you travel along it, and the vehicle you’re driving.

Heading from Toulouse to Biarritz along the A64 will cost a total €23 in fees for a private car and if you’re driving all the way from Calais down to the Mediterranean coast expect to pay around €70 once you add up the various tolls along the way.

You can find out tariffs for autoroutes on the website of France’s official autoroute body AFSA – where you can also calculate the cost of your journey – including fuel.

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