Driving in France
The French drive on the right hand side of the road so prepare yourself in advance and think it through before you go!
As you land from the Ferry signs guide you to the right hand side but after that it is up to you to remember! A LARGE arrow pointing right on the dashboard can help but once you have it in your mind you should not have any problems.
If you ‘Fly Drive’, you need to be slightly more prepared – there will be no reminders in the vehicle, in the car park or on the road. A LARGE arrow to stick on the dashboard pointing right can help but get your companions to remind you as well!
The other elements to think about are your driving position:
English car: If you are driving in France in an English car, you will need your passenger’s help in overtaking because you will be next to the verge – Your passenger can advise you when it is safe enough to come to the left to see if it is safe to overtake – It’s up to you to keep an eye in the rear view mirror!
Hire Car: You will be on the correct side of the car but you will have to contend with the gear lever being on your right and this takes a couple of days to get really used to – take your time - leave the town and city roads for day 3 – there is plenty to see around the countryside! The next time you visit it will all be easier!
Just watch out for the following circumstances which can lead you into mistakes – especially after 2/3 days abroad:
Coming from a narrow road to a wider road,
Turning right into another road,
Turning out of a petrol station or car park.
These and similar circumstances can allow your autopilot to take over and you can end up on the left – until you spot the vehicles driving at you and hooting – that is! Concentrate, don’t gawp at the scenery too much and don’t let people distract you from the driving.
Planning where you are going really pays dividends because there are fewer surprises and that, just like in England, is the safest way to be!
Driving in France can be a pleasure, the roads are generally well maintained and, by British standards traffic density is very light. Towns and cities can be busy but don’t be rushed and you will be fine!
Speed Limits are in Kilometres per hour - Kph
Built up areas (which are defined as starting when you pass the town/village name and stopping when you pass the Town/village name with a diagonal bar across it are: 50 Kph (31 Mph)
Ordinary Roads 90 Kph (56 Mph) in the dry
80 Kph (50 Mph) in the wet
Toll free Autoroutes (unless told otherwise) 110Kph (68 Mph) in the dry
100 Kph (62 Mph) in the wet
Toll Autoroutes (Unless told otherwise) 130 Kph (81 Mph) in the dry
110 Kph (68 Mph) in the wet
www.controleradar.org/imp/languedoc.html lists the permanent speed cameras in Languedoc. There can, of course still be hand held speed cameras as well.
You should check the latest lists before you travel. I would actively discourage speeding but it is useful to be aware of where speed cameras are normally sited in the event that your attention wanders!
As at October 05 cameras listed for roads you are likely to travel are :
On the N112 between Agde & Vias (90 kph)
On the N112 between Sete & Montpellier (90kph)
On the A75 at Pegairolles-de-L’escalette between Millau and Montpellier (80 kph)
On the D5 at Pignan between Pignan and Cournonsec (90 kph)
On D11 at Capestang between Montardy & Capestang (90 kph)
(your most likely camera to come across) and
On Avenue de la Liberation at Montpellier (50 kph)
On the A75 (the Autoroute) at Banassac between Beziers and Clermont Ferrand (110 kph)
On the N112 at Perpignan between Perpignan and Cerbere (110 kph)
On the N9 at Perpignan between Narbonne and Perpignan (110 kph) &
On the N9 at Villemoaque between Le Boulou and Perpignan (90 kph)
Please check before you travel if this is something that bothers you!
Roundabouts are relatively easy to navigate. Provided you keep on the inside lane, you may go around as many times as it takes to read the signs. When entering the roundabout, check for traffic from the left, enter the circle and go towards the centre until it is time to exit, signal, check the inner lane for traffic and then make your turn.
Do not cross a solid white line in the road.
Familiarly known as pedestrian crossings, these are not taken seriously in France and motorists will even park on them. If you see a pedestrian waiting to cross, be WARY about out stopping suddenly and letting them cross - the French won't necessarily expect it so give everyone plenty of space to reduce the risk of someone running into the back of you. If there are traffic lights pedestrians don't seem to expect to cross until the lights are green for them. If in doubt - play safe!
DRIVING DOs & DON'Ts
Note that the French are hot on their ‘On-the-spot’ fines which are VERY heavy – avoid this particular anguish by keeping to at least the following DOS & DON’T:
DO ensure that the driver and all the passengers wear their seat belts at all times
DO Stop COMPLETELY at any ‘Stop’ signs – You must come to a full stop
DO use full or dipped headlights in France. Sidelights on their own can only be used when the car is parked
DO ensure your headlights are adjusted to dip to suit right hand drive if you take your own car to France
Do be VERY aware of the presence of Scooters (especially in towns!) as you will often have to make allowances for them
DON'T drive in bus lanes
Don't use a mobile phone while driving - it's illegal in France!
DON’T Drink & Drive at all as the limit in France is only 50 mg per 100 ml of blood – a tiny amount
DON’T overtake when there is a single white line
DON’T let under tens travel in the front of the car
DON’T stop on the open road without pulling off the carriageway
DON’T drive with any defective light bulbs
NOTE that People on Provisional Licences CAN’T drive and drivers MUST be over 18 years of age
Flashing your lights
If a driver flashes his lights at you it DOESN’T mean “ OK come on through” as it would in Great Britain– it means “Look out I’m Coming Through – the exact opposite!
Priorité à Droite (Pririty from the Right)
One of the major foibles concerning driving in France has been an old rule that said that anyone joining the road from your right had Right of Way – a recipe for many accidents in the past!
This rule still exist but there are now a large number of exceptions and it is important to understand exactly when Priorité à Droite is valid and when it is not.
At Roundabouts the rule is almost always that Traffic from the right DOES NOT have priority – check the road markings and the speed of people approaching the roundabout for reassurance but watch out for signs saying “Vous n’avez pas la priorité” which confirms that you Don’t have right of way!
All significant roads outside of built up areas will have right of way (passage protégé) which is indicated by either a yellow diamond OR a broad straight ahead arrow over a narrow horizontal line.
Wherever you are (especially in Towns & Villages), unless you see these signs, you DO NOT HAVE right of way and people can legitimately come out in front of you – make lots of allowances!!!!!
Traffic signs in France may seem off-puttingly different but it becomes easier if you remember that France has the same basic rules for signs as England:
One potentially misleading issue about signs for English drivers is how they are placed in France.
A sign on the right indicating left generally means you go straight ahead.
However, the exact same sign on the right indicating right signifies that you 'turn right' at the first opportunity.
Once you have seen this a couple of times it becomes second nature!