Road rules & regulations
When driving in a different country, it is important that you are aware of any road laws and restrictions that may differ from home.
- As with most of the continent, the French drive on the RIGHT
- It is compulsory to wear seatbelts, both front and rear (if fitted) and children under the age of 10 are not permitted to travel in the front seat unless there are no seat belts in the rear.
- Speed limits on the roads are signed in KM/H.
- French drivers give way to the right .Sometimes this will mean that a car turning onto a road from a junction will have right of way of the car already on the road.
- French Traffic lights go straight from red to green with no amber stage.
- Driving licence and vehicle registration documents must be carried at all times when driving
- 3rd party insurance is the compulsory minimum
- Drink driving. If the level of alcohol in the bloodstream exceeds 0.05% then severe penalties including fines, imprisonment and/or loss of licence will ensue. This means that just one pint of beer can take you up to the limit. This is the same in Switzerland, whereas in the UK the limit is 0.08%. The police also use saliva drug tests to detect people under the influence of drugs whilst behind the wheel.
- Mobile phones may not be used whilst driving unless with a hands-free kit.
- In Switzerland you must drive with your headlights on during the day.
The speed limits on the roads can vary slightly from county to country and on the motorways in France they vary again depending on the weather. In built up areas stick to 50km/h (France) and 90 km/h (France - reduced to 80km/h from 1st July 2018) 80 km/h (Switzerland) on the outskirts of town. Dual carriageways that are separated by a central reservation generally have a limit of 110km/h (France) 100km/h (Switzerland) unless indicated otherwise and motorways have a maximum speed of 130km/h (France) and 120km/h (Switzerland). In France during wet weather these speed limits are reduced to 80km/h (49mph) outside built up areas, 100km/h (62mph) on dual carriageways and 110km/h (68mph) on the motorway. Speed limits are also reduced on stretches of motorways around built up areas and the minimum speed you can travel on the motorway is 80km/h (49mph).
If you are caught speeding by the French police, on-the-spot fines are expensive and will have to be paid there and then. If you don’t have sufficient money on you then you can expect to be escorted to the nearest cash point (complete with flashing lights in our experience!) so you can withdraw the necessary funds. The official is then obliged to issue you with a receipt as confirmation of payment. If you are caught exceeding the speed limit by more than 40km/h, you are at risk of having your licence confiscated on the spot. The use of radar detectors is also absolutely forbidden in France and failure to comply involves a fine of up to €1500 and the vehicle may be confiscated.
Triangles & High Vis
Since July 1st 2008, it became law in France that motorised vehicles must carry a warning triangle and a high-visibility security vest, intended to make stopping in cases of emergency, breakdown or accident safer for all road users. The change in the law doesn't affect motorbikes, but as of the 1st September 2008, anyone riding a bike outside of built up areas, must wear a high visibility vest at night, or during the day in the case of bad weather.
If you have passengers in your car then the wearing of seat belts is compulsory for both front and back seat passengers. Children under the age of 10 are not permitted to travel in the front seat unless there are no rear seats, they are already occupied by other under 10’s or they don’t have seat belts fitted. In this case, they must be strapped into an approved child seat or restraint, appropriate for their size. It is the driver’s responsibility to ensure that all passengers are appropriately restrained.
On roads in built up areas you generally give way to traffic coming from the right – “priorité a droite” and when approaching roundabouts, if you see a sign saying “Vous n’avez pas la priorité” or “Cedez le passage”, traffic on the roundabout has priority.
It is forbidden to use your horn in residential areas unless in immediate danger.