Driving rules and customs

Driving in France can be very relaxing, but make sure you know the rules and regulations before you set off. Traffic patrols are very common, and it is not unknown for them to lie in wait! If you are caught breaking the law, many fines are hefty and payable on the spot - and if you don't have the cash then your vehicle could be impounded.

Roadside enforcement cameras are also very common, often supplemented by portable units which aren't necessarily manned. If you are caught, you will still receive an penalty ticket due to cross-border co-operation.

Driving age

The minimum permitted age for driving a vehicle is 18 years, regardless of where the license was issued.

   

Mobile phones

It is illegal to use a handheld mobile phone.
The use of built-in bluetooth hands free equipment is permitted, but headsets and earpieces are not allowed.

   

Alcohol limit

The blood alcohol content limit is 0.5, reducing to 0.2 for professional drivers.

   

Food and drink

It is advised that you don't eat or drink whilst at the wheel.
Whilst it is not illegal, you may be deemed to not be in full control of your vehicle, which is a punishable offence.

   

Smoking

It is illegal to smoke in any vehicle carrying a child under the age of 12.

   

Speed limits

 

urban rural expressway motorway
motorcycles 50 80 or 90 110 130
cars 50 80 or 90 110 130
towing vehicles 50 80 90 90
vans over 3.5t 50 80 80 90
trucks over 7.5t 50 60 80 90
buses 50 80 90 90

When raining, the speed limit for cars and motorcycles automatically reduces to 110 km/h on motorways, 90 km/h on expressways and 70 km/h on rural roads.
A blanket speed limit of 50km/h applies when visibility is reduced to less than 50m, due to conditions such as fog, smoke or blizzards.

   

Speed camera detection

If your sat nav warns you about speed cameras, then turn off this option.
It is illegal to have a device that warns or detects speed cameras - you will be fined if caught and the device confiscated.
 

   
 

Seat belts

All occupants must wear a seat belt if one is provided in the vehicle.
Children under the age of 10 are not allowed to travel in the front seat, unless there are no rear seats.

   

Child restraints

Any child weighing less than 36kg or below 135cm in height must be in a suitable car or booster seat.
If all rear seats are occupied by children, then the child sat in the middle can use an ordinary three-point seatbelt.

   

Motorway safety corridor

When a mobile works vehicle is stationary on the hard shoulder, the nearside lane must be kept clear in order to provide a safe working environment.
Motorists must change lane in good time, and must not move back until they have passed the working area.

   

Headlights

It is recommended that dipped headlights are used when driving a vehicle without daytime running lights.
However, the use of headlights becomes mandatory:
  - when visibility is reduced by heavy rain, snow or fog;
  - when drving through tunnels;
  - at all times when riding a motorcycle.

   

Horns

When in urban areas, it is illegal to use your horn unless it is an emergency.

   

Pedestrian crossings

Pedestrians have right of way when using an urban crossing point that isn't controlled by signals.
In residential areas where the speed linit is 20 km/h or below, pedestrians have right of way at all times.

   

Trams

You must not overtake a tram that has stopped to let passengers board or alight.