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.

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.

   
Minimum driving age
18
  Mobile phones
Hands-free use only permitted
The use of headsets or earpieces is illegal
 
Drink drive limit
50mg
20mg for professional or new drivers
  
   Food and drink
It is recommended that you don't eat or drink at the wheel
Police could prosecute if they determine you are "not in full control"
 
 Smoking
It is illegal to smoke in a vehicle carrying a child aged under 12
   Speed camera detectors
It is illegal to have a device that warns or detects speed cameras
If your sat-nav warns about cameras, you must turn off this option
 
Seatbelts
Must be worn in any seat where one is fitted
Children under 10 not allowed in front seat
   Child seats
Required if below 36 kg weight / 135 cm height
Headlights
Mandatory in poor visibility (dense fog, smoke, heavy rain)
Must be used when driving through tunnels
Mandatory at all times when riding a motorcycle
 
  Horns
 Use is illegal in urban areas, except in an emergency
   
Pedestrian priority
Motorists must give way at non-signalised crossings
Pedestrians have priority where the speed limit is 20 km/h or less
 
  Trams
You must not overtake if it has stopped for boarding or alighting.
Motorway safety corridor
If a mobile works vehicle is stationary on the hard shoulder, the nearside lane must be kept clear in order to provide a safe working area.
Motorists must change well in advance, and must not move back until they have passed the hazard.