A car is probably the best way to explore France in total freedom. From motorways to departmental roads and country lanes, the French road network is very dense. However, traveling by car in France needs some requirements.
Documents for Driving in France
You may be asked to produce your documents at any time. Make sure that they are in order and readily available to avoid the risk of a police fine or even having your car taken away. You will need:
- A valid full (not provisional) driving licence
- A vehicle registration document (V5c) - the original not a copy, called "carte grise" (grey card) in France
- A motor insurance certificate
If the vehicle is not registered in your name, carry a letter from the registered owner giving you permission to drive.
When you are driving in France, a GB sticker needs to be clearly displayed on the back of your car - unless your car has 'Euro-plates' (number-plates that show a circle of 12 stars on a blue background).
What you need to take in your car when driving in France
- A warning triangle and a fluorescent safety vest. If your vehicle breaks down or is involved in an accident, you must give warning to approaching traffic. Drivers must position the warning triangle on the road surface immediately upon exiting the vehicle at a distance of at least 30 meters from it or from the obstacle in question.
- A breathalyser. Anyone failing to produce a breathalyser when requested will receive an on the spot fine of €11.The official announcement states that one unused, certified breathalyser must be produced showing the French certification mark NF. Carrying two single-use breathalysers will ensure that if one is used or damaged, you will still have a spare to produce.
Speed camera alerts
Devices capable of detecting speed cameras are forbidden when driving in France. This includes products or devices able to warn or inform of the location of speed cameras e.g. Satnav or GPS systems capable of showing speed camera sites as Points of Interest.
Unless otherwise signposted and on dry roads
- 130 km/h (80 mph) on toll motorways
- 110 km/h (68 mph) on dual carriageways and motorways without tolls
- 80 km/h (50 mph) on other roads
- 50 km/h (31 mph) in towns. Town name starts the limit, a bar through the town name is the derestriction sign
On wet roads
110 km/h (68 mph) on toll motorways
100 km/h (62 mph) on dual carriageways and motorways without tolls
On motorways in foggy conditions, when visibility is less than 50 m, the speed is limited at 50km/h (31 mph)
Driving in France with a caravan
- If the weight of the trailer exceeds that of the car, the speed limits are lower: 65 km/h (40 mph) if the excess is less than 30%, or 45km/h (28 mph) if the excess is more than 30%.
- During the first 3 years after passing your test, you must not exceed: 80 km/h (50 mph) on roads, 100 km/h (62 mph) on urban motorways and 110 km/h (68 mph) on motorways.
- On motorways there is a minimum speed limit of 80 km/h (50 mph) for vehicles travelling in the left lane (ie outside lane).
Minimum age for driving in France is 18 for a car and a motorcycle over 125cc and 15 for a motorcycle under 125cc. France has very strict drink driving laws. You are allowed a maximum of 0.5mg/ml of alcohol per litre in your blood, compared to 0.8mg/ml in the UK. Drivers who test positive for a substance classified as a narcotic face up to two years imprisonment and a €4,500 fine. During the first 3 years after passing your test, the limit is 0.2mg/ml, which means 0 unite of alcohol.
- 0.8mg/litre blood: you will have to go to court; maximum fine: 4.500€
- 0.5 and 0.8mg /litre blood: standard fine: 135€
- 50km/h (31 mph): you will have to go to court; maximum fine: 1.500€
- 40km/h (25 mph): you will have to go to court; maximum fine: 750€
- 30km/h (19 mph): you will have to go to court; maximum fine: 135€
It is illegal to use a mobile phone behind the wheel, regardless of whether it is operated with a hands free kit. On-the-spot fines of up to €135 could be issued.
Driving in France with children
Children under 10 must be in the back seat and must use a proper restraint system appropriate to their weight, which means a child seat if they are between 9 to 15kg. Over this weight they can use a seat belt with a booster seat.
Driving in France requires adjusting the beam pattern to suit driving on the right so that the dipped beam doesn't dazzle oncoming drivers.
Motorcycles over 125cc must use dipped headlights during the day at all times.
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