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Driving in France – be aware of the rules

When driving in France there are some basic rules and considerations to be aware and our guide aims to help you with this.

The main regulations for driving in France:

  • The minimum age for driving a car in France is 18; it doesn’t matter if you hold a valid licence in another country – if you’re not 18 you can’t drive in France. Additionally, new drivers in France are restricted to 90km/h for 2 years after qualifying.
  • Cars in France drive on the right.
  • All passengers must wear seat-belts.
  • If you are driving a foreign registered vehicle, a sticker showing the country of origin, must be attached to the vehicle regardless of what is on the number plate and, if you’re towing a trailer or caravan that must also have a country of origin sticker.
  • You will need to apply headlamp adjusters to your car headlamps if your car is set up for driving on the left.
  • Children under the age of 10 are not allowed in front seats (except babies up to 9 months with rear facing child seats).
  • You must stop at Zebra crossings – this is now enforced by law (it didn’t used to be!). If you’re a pedestrian though take care as this rule is frequently ignored!
  • Driving licence, insurance certificate and vehicle registration documents must be shown at any roadside controls – make sure you carry these documents in the car with you.
  • Don’t be tempted to exceed the speed limit you could be fined on the spot. Fines are very expensive and you are required to pay in cash! (A friend of mine had his car impounded until he could raise the cash).
  • The drink drive limit in France is strictly imposed – you are allowed a maximum of 0.5mg/ml of alcohol per litre in your blood, and for drivers with less than 3 years experience, bus and coach drivers it’s 0.02%. You will often find that alcoholic beverages are available with meals in French motorway service areas – a fact that surprises a lot of visitors, particularly when you see lorry drivers indulging but don’t be tempted , drink/driving is considered a very serious misdemeanor.
  • Posession of a radar detector is a serious crime – you will be fined €2000 or more.
  • You will be fined if you are caught using a mobile phone while driving.
  • In some cities you will need to have French Clean Air Stickers showing
  • If you have a car registration for any EU member state and you get caught speeding in France, you can be tracked down. In the UK you can still be prosecuted.
  • In some cases, your car will be confiscated such as driving without insurance, exceeding the speed limit by 50km/h, driving without a licence and refusing to stop when requested.

For more information, check a reputable website such as the AA or RAC.

More information and rules for driving in France

Speed limits in France
Checklist for driving in France
Priorité à Droite (priority to the right)
Fuel in France
Motorways and Toll Roads in France

Accidents and Breakdowns in France

See our section on Driving in France – accidents and breakdowns.

Speed cameras in France

Yes – there are plenty of speed cameras in France – see our section on speed cameras, speed limits and the rules on carrying speed camera detectors in France.

Useful Vocabulary for driving in France

Allumez vos lanternes – switch on your lights
Attention au feu – fire hazard
Attention travaux – road words
Chausee deformee – uneven surface
Fin d’interdiction de stationner – end of parking restrictions
Gravillons – loose chippings
Interdit aux pietons – no pedestrians
Rappel – repeat of sign
Route barree – road closed
Vouz n’avez pas le priorite – give way
Sans plomb 95 – Petrol (higher octane)– (Green handled pump)
Sans plomb 98 -Petrol (standard octane)
Gazole – diesel

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