Driving In France

Driving in France Tips

We estimate that ten million people drive their car in France through any given year from the UK. However a worrying number of them take silly risks that end up being very costly. Not just financial risks either as they put themselves and other road users in harm’s way.

People seem to have a mind-set that is totally different when they are on holiday and they therefore do things that they normally wouldn’t even consider.

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In other cases well over a million drivers will break the French driving laws without even realising they are doing it. Speeding is one of the first things people do more of while on holiday, which surprises me I must say. I’ve driven faster than I should when late for work or an important meeting but when I’m driving through the beautiful countryside of the South of France I generally drive in a much more relaxed style than when I’m at home.

One of the worst things people do while on holiday in France is be a lot more relaxed about drinking and driving. When at home it is something the vast majority of people would never contemplate yet while on holiday they seem to feel that driving back from the bar or restaurant is perfectly acceptable.

You really should be aware that the blood alcohol level limits are in fact lower than they currently are in the UK so the idea of having “a couple” and being OK to drive is absolutely not correct.

For some strange reason people are less inclined to use their seat belts while on holiday. Why, do they think it is less likely that they will go through the windscreen in the event of an accident?

More people use their mobile phones while driving abroad also as they seem to think it is not a motoring offence to do so in France. Well it is and not only that it is even an offence to be using it in France even if you are parked at the side of the road! This rule catches a lot of people out in France and the French police do enjoy giving British tourists a ticket.

Prior Preparation Prevents Points on your Licence

Around half the UK people driving in France this make absolutely no effort whatsoever to find out what the legal requirements are for driving in France.

Just a brief look at a website like ours could save people on the spot roadside fines and or points on their licences. By the way don’t worry if you have no cash on you when they stop you as the French police are more than happy to take you to the nearest cash point machine.

Surveys have shown that nearly a third of all drivers heading for France do not know that they are supposed to have a high visibility vest.

In some European countries such as Germany just running out of petrol is a motoring offence.

Less than half the UK cars driving off the ferries have a GB sticker on them which again is against the driving rules.

Even worse still nearly sixty six per cent go driving in Europe without their cars documentation with them.  Things like driving licence, log book, MOT certificate, Insurance may seem obvious but only about 33% take them. Even less think to take a contact number for their insurance company, which is an absolute must if you are in an accident.

About 10% of UK drivers driving abroad have had an accident while doing so, a high number due to the “driving on the wrong side of the road” scenario and unfamiliarity with junction and traffic island etiquette in France. Add to this the fact that most people do not have a clue what half the French road signs mean and they are shocked when they visit a foreign country to find they are not in English and they are different to ours!

Most people jump to the dangerous conclusion that their car insurance covers them to drive abroad. Well does it? A lot don’t so you really should check before going.

The same goes for your breakdown cover, don’t assume your breakdown company will drive over to France to fix your car because you happen to be a member in the UK. They will not unless you have their European breakdown cover.

Our Top Tips

Take time to check out our checklist and make sure you have all the items on the list as a minimum.  See the checklist here.

See about European breakdown cover and check with your insurance company to make sure you are covered.

Do some homework on the driving rules for France and checkout the speed limits.

Make sure your car is up to the journey and at the very least check oil levels etc. prior to leaving. Ideally you should get the car serviced and the tyres checked. Tyre pressures are important if on long journeys as uneven and must faster tyre wear will occur if they are under inflated.

Very importantly your headlight beams need to be adjusted. The easiest way is just to apply some headlamp converters, there are very cheap disposable after use items and you can either buy them from us as a separate item or they do come as part of the “All in One European Kit”.

Your headlights will not then be dazzling other road users. These have to be fitted by the way even if you are just driving your car during the hours of daylight.

If are not lucky enough to have a newer car which has the EU number plate with the GB badge on it then you must get a GB sticker.  Again these come as part of our all in one kit, or individually. It is worth noting that if you are towing a caravan or trailer of any kind then you must have a GB sticker on what you are towing also.

Watch out for Bicycles

Drivers in Europe receive very tough penalties if they knock someone off a bicycle. Unlike in the UK where the cyclist has to prove the motorist was at fault, in many European countries the motorist is considered guilty and has the onus to prove they are innocent if they hit someone riding a bicycle.

This means that in Europe it is much safer to ride a bike than it is in the UK simply because drivers are very much more aware of bikes and keep a careful lookout for them.

The “where there’s blame there’s a claim” type civil lawsuits almost always go in favour of the cyclist so you really should watch out.

In the Netherlands and Belgium they are probably toughest on this with the law categorically stating that if there is an accident with a cyclist it is the driver’s fault. This assumption of guilt placed on the motorist really means people have to be careful.

I’ve driven round London quite a bit in the past and I know that couriers on bikes pay little attention to the rules of the road but nevertheless people driving cars, taxis, vans busses etc. really don’t take enough care around bikes

Finally

Finally wherever you are planning on going take some time to plan your routes and factor in some breaks along the way. France is a big country to drive through and they have lots of accidents on their roads which are caused by drivers falling asleep at the wheel. 

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