Millions of us head over the English Channel to enjoy French holidays every summer. Using the Eurotunnel or the regular ferry services means you can take the family car too, allowing you to take more luggage and avoid the hassle and expense of hiring a car once you cross the Channel. Driving in France is by and large very straightforward, but there are some rules and regulations which British drivers should be aware of.
High-Vis Jackets and Warning Triangles
French law requires all drivers to carry a high visibility jacket and a warning triangle in their car at all times. This legislation is designed to keep you safe should you break down on the motorway. You can wear the reflective jacket so that you are easily spotted by other motorists, and place the triangle further back down the road to warn approaching traffic. French police are aware that carrying these items isn’t required in the UK, so it’s not unknown for them to stop British cars to check. Not carrying these items will result in an on the spot fine of £120, so invest £10 in a triangle and jacket and don’t get caught out.
Drink Drive Limit
Don’t fall into the trap of assuming the drink drive limit in France is the same as in England and Wales. In most of the UK, the limit is 80mg per 100ml of breath. In France the limit is 50mg. This is the same as the drink drive limit in Scotland. It’s impossible to say how much you can drink before being over the limit, but it’s roughly half of the limit you are used to. French authorities recommend that drivers carry a portable breathalyser kit in their car so they can check they are safe to drive before setting off.
Variable Speed Limits
The standard speed limit on a French motorway or dual carriageway is 130 kilometres per hour, but in wet weather this limit drops to 110 kph. The same rules apply to trunk roads and speed limits can be as low as 30 km per hour in town centres. French speeding rules are very strict – you’ll be fined if you’re clocked at even 1km over the limit. There’s a sliding scale of fines depending on how far over the limit you are, and a reciprocal agreement means the French authorities can chase for payment even once you’ve returned home.
Children and Car Seats
Unlike the UK which does not have a minimum age for sitting in the front passenger seat, under 10s are not allowed in the front of the car in France, even on a booster seat. The only exception is a very young baby in a rear facing seat secured by the seatbelt. All children up to the age of 10 must be in an appropriate car seat. The driver is legally responsible for making sure children in the car are on suitable seats. If travelling by bike, a new French law requires all under 12s to wear a cycle helmet.