How French motorists drive you crazy

The Local's readers share their ideas for how France should crack down on its rogue motorists (not to mention those rogue British drivers...).

When we asked for French drivers' worst habits on our Twitter and Facebook channels, one reader even said there weren't enough Twitter characters to list them all. 

Here's a selection of the measures they would like to see France implement in order to improve road safety.
Punish tailgating (or driving up your backside in the UK)
This was by far the most repeated response we got. Mike Walker on Twitter said that France's tailgaters “infuriate” him. He says that “you can sometimes see a line of cars that almost appear to be conjoined”.

Photo: Olivier Jeannin/Flickr

Tell them to stick to their side of the road 
Facebook fan Rhys Bowen takes issue with drivers not sticking to their lanes. “The Gendarmes like to enforce speed limits but speeding is not the real problem. It's not keeping to their own side of the road,” he said, before adding that they're not much good at giving way to pedestrians either. 

Photo: Piano Piano!/Flickr

Make scooter riders behave
Theresa Hall on Facebook says that both motorcyclists and scooter riders seem to “drive anywhere they want”. And it appears to be true, especially in Paris, if our reader response is anything to go by. “Driving in Paris is not for the timid,” Theresa concludes.

Sometimes some drivers seem to forget that parking spaces do exist. Photo: Loïc/Flickr

Learn pedestrian crossing etiquette
This was a gripe for numerous readers.
It's not that hard, motorists. If the light is red, then stop. No sneaking through at the last minute either, please and maybe they can stop once in a while at a pedestrian crossing. Or at least slow down.
Pedestrians in France have to be ultra careful on the streets just to get from A to B. The flip side is that if the pedestrians aren't assertive, they might miss their chance, leaving some to jump the gun and cross the road when the light's red for them too. Yes, the pedestrian crossings are a minefield in the bigger cities in France. You've been warned. 

The Concorde Square. Photo: WiLPrZ/Flickr

Park in parking places
This was another common response. Shanon Lamonds Michelle summed up the problem: “They park where they please.”
The government announced this week that rules would be tweaked slightly with parking, saying that it will now be illegal for cars to park within five metres of a pedestrian crossing. 

This car's driver has apparently lost his sense of direction. Photo: Georg Sander/Flickr

Cut the beeping
The Local's own editor and frequent pedestrian Ben McPartland chimed in on this one. “The reaction times of some Parisian motorists are unbelievable. Within a split second of the traffic light going green, they are on their horns, honking the car at the front.”
Stop putting pedestrians in danger
Reader Geoff Dupuy-Holder has this to say about French drivers in “his satirical take on the alternative rules of La Route”: “If you pass a pedestrian, dog-walker, jogger, wheelchair user, old person or a young mother pushing a pram, do not slow down. Drive as close and as fast as possible, preferably while glaring out of the window at the thoughtless person who has dared to invade the sacred space of your road.”
Outlaw risky overtaking
Twitter user Tilou says that the overtaking manoevres of French motorist “leave much to be desired”. Jehanne Collard, a lawyer for victims of road accidents in France and an author of a book of the subject backs up Tilou's complaint.

“There is a real deterioration in terms of the behavior on the road. Fatal accidents often involving cyclists, pedestrians and scooter drivers are related to excessive speeds and risk-taking, such as overtaking blind,” she told Le Figaro.

Photo: Andrew Gustar/Flickr

UK rogue drivers!
It wasn't only the French drivers who were under attack. Writing on Facebook Nigel Hay said that the French government should crack down on all the UK registered cars “running about France” without the necessary MOTs or valid insurance. “There are Brit cars here that have been untaxed and still registered in the UK for 15 years now – so where do all the unpaid fines go to?” he asked.

Photo: Mikey/Flickr
Another version of this story was published in 2015
For members


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.