Driving in France
If this is your first visit to France, plan to make an early start to your first journey - the roads will be virtually traffic free. This gives you the chance to practice the dreaded anticlockwise roundabouts without fear. Although they are not as hard as you would think and it is virtually impossible to go the wrong way round as the road usually guides you the correct way. Patience and concentration are what is needed.
Consider travelling at weekends when there are fewer lorries on the roads.
Don't worry about holding up traffic - better to slow the traffic than to rush and cause an accident - remember 'better safe than sorry'.
Where possible use motorways or dual carriageways, which are very rarely as busy as those in England, to further acclimatise yourself.
Stop often - there are some beautiful picnic places and service areas.
After a couple of days you will wonder what you were worried about and start to really enjoy the trip.
Be especially careful when setting off from any stop off place on the left side of the road, it's easy to forget to drive on the right.
Take care when overtaking - allow more space between you and the car in front so you can see further down the road ahead. Allow more time if you are relying on your passenger to say when the road is clear. There can be a significant time lapse between their "go now" and your reaction to it!
Seat belts front and rear (if fitted) are compulsory everywhere.
Children in cars: Children under 10 are not allowed in the front. In the rear they must use a proper restraint system appropriate to their weight, which means a child seat if they weigh between 9 and 15 kg. Over this weight they can use seat belts with a booster cushion.
Drinking and Driving: France has strict drink driving laws, blood alcohol levels being stricter than in the UK. So, don't do it. Over 0.05 per cent and you could face anything up to imprisonment.
Speed limits: (shown below) are implemented rigorously. Radar traps are frequent. In France, anyone caught travelling at more than 25km/h above the speed limit could have their licence confiscated on the spot.
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Remember - Speeding and other traffic offences are subject to on-the-spot fines. Ensure you get an official receipt issued by the officer collecting the fine.
Fuel: All grades of unleaded petrol, diesel and LPG are available as well as lead substitute additive. Leaded no longer exists. It is allowed to carry petrol in a can. Credit and debit cards are widely accepted, we've used them at the automatic pumps without problems.
GB sticker: UK registered vehicles displaying Euro-plates (circle of 12 stars above the national identifier on blue background) no longer need a GB sticker when driving in European Union countries.
Lights: Dipped headlights must be used in poor daytime visibility. Motorcycles over 125cc must use dipped headlights during the day at all times.
Minimum age for driving, provided you hold a full UK licence, is 18 for a car and a motorcycle over 125cc and 15 for a motorcycle under 125cc.
Motorcycle riders and passengers must wear crash helmets.
Warning triangles and high visibility jackets are compulsory in France they must be used in the event of a breakdown.
Driving Documents and Equipment:
It is important to carry with you your full (not provisional) driving licence and passport, your vehicle's MOT certificate, your insurance certificate (not a cover note) Check your cover with your insurance company before you go. You may have to pay a premium for comprehensive cover or to have a 'green card' issued, although many now issue a certificate valid for the EU which makes a green card unnecessary. Also take your log book a photocopy will not do . If you are not the registered keeper (the person named on the log book) of the vehicle you will need a signed letter from the registered keeper saying that you have their permission to use the vehicle outside Britain.
Headlamp adjusters - compulsory - make your beam shine to the right and prevent you from dazzling oncoming drivers - don't make our mistake and think that, as you are arriving in the daylight that you won't need to put them on until you arrive, we were caught in a torrential downpour and thunderstorm, it turned as dark as night and we had to stop as we were in danger of dazzling other drivers.
Spare bulbs - are essential, you don't want to be caught out in the dark, miles from the nearest garage. It is now an offence not to have spare bulbs in France.
First aid kits - recommended - everyone is required to provide first-aid equipment in the event of an accident.
From 1 July 2008 it became obligatory to carry a warning triangle and reflective jacket for use in case of a breakdown. Anyone found to not be complying with this requirement could be subject to a fine. Might be worth getting more jackets, one for the passenger/s too, just in case.
You can buy your high visibility vest and warning triangle here
From July 2012, anyone travelling through the country by car will also have to have one of the breathalyser kits so that they can test themselves to ensure they are under drink-drive limits.
You can buy a breathalyser kit here