Driving In France

Driving In France: What to do in an Emergency

The French Police, Fire Brigade or Ambulance services are organisations you hopefully will not need to trouble while on holiday in France but it’s always best to know what to do or who to call in any real emergency situation.

When driving in France who do you call in an emergency? Dialling 999 will not do you much good if you are in the South of France, you might as well call Ghostbusters.

In the UK we just have one single emergency number to phone, but in France they have a variety of different phone numbers to use dependant on what type of problem you have encountered.

Remember the operator may not speak English so if you have a phrase book handy or a phone app to help that will be very useful.

In France the individual numbers are:

Medical emergencies: Dial 15 (Free from landlines and call boxes)

This number gets you directly in touch with SAMU (Service d'Aide Médicale d'Urgence).

Fire & Rescue Services: Dial 18 (Free from landlines and call boxes)

This number gets you directly in touch with the local Pompier (Fire Brigade).

Police: Dial 17 (Free from landlines and call boxes)

Europe Wide: Emergency Phone Number

There is however a single number, which is used all over Europe that is 112, this is strictly for life and death emergencies so don’t ring them because you have a puncture or got lost. This is similar to our 999 where they will ask what type of emergency you have and they will then put you in touch with the correct service depending on which country you are in.

Involved in a Road Traffic Accident in France

Probably your worst nightmare about any holiday in France is you get involved in a road traffic accident. Being in a collision in the UK is bad enough but add to that the additional language problems and procedural differences and the whole thing is just compounded.

We have provided here some brief information on what you should and shouldn’t do if you do have a serious crash or just a minor bump.

As in the UK you have to have at least 3rd party car insurance and this obviously will save some problems right away. I suggest you take your car insurance companies phone number with you when you go to France and if they have one the French phone number you should call in the event of a claim. They may be able to help with getting you towed or providing a courtesy car for your onward journey.

In France they have something called a “constat amiable d'accident” which is an accident report form. These have to be completed in the event of a crash. If no one is injured and if both parties are in agreement then you do not have to contact the police, however you still have to fill out the form.

You can download an English version of the form here

It is useful to take a few photos of the crash before moving your car to the side of the road, just in case there is any argument later as to whose fault it was. Having a pen in the glove box is always handy too!

If you do not read or write French then I wouldn't sign anything the other party writes down just in case.

Remember to put your “High Visibility Vest” on and place your “Warning Triangle” about 30 yards behind the accident to warn other drivers.

If the other driver refuses to sign your accident form make sure you get his registration number before they drive off and ask for contact details of any witnesses.

After the crash you have 5 days to submit the accident report to your car insurance company though to be honest I’d be on the phone to them within minutes.

French drivers will often wish to sort out payment of minor damage repairs themselves as their “no-claims discount structure is far higher than ours and they don’t like to lose their bonuses.