Driving in France?

Know the latest rules for drivers before you go to Europe

Driving in France? Know the latest rules before you go to Europe

Driving in France? Know the latest rules before you go to Europe

Even if you regularly drive to Europe, the AA is here to help you check the latest rules and requirements.

There were several legal changes in 2012 affecting drivers in France though two of those new laws have subsequently been either abolished or postponed.

Early in 2015 the French Government announced a road safety action plan with 26 measures and some new laws have been introduced effective from 1 July 2015.

Latest

The drink drive limit for novice drivers (less than three years driving experience) has been reduced to 0.02%, the same level as that applied to bus/coach drivers.

Drivers are prohibited from using headphones and headsets (any device attached to the ear) when driving. This regulation applies to all drivers and riders and covers devices used for phone calls as well as for listening to music/radio etc. Bluetooth or integrated systems in a motorcycle helmet are still permitted.

From January 2016 it will be compulsory for all motorcyclists (two or three wheels) to carry reflective jackets and wear them in the event of an emergency/breakdown.

A Low Emission Zone has been introduced in Paris, initially affecting only older (Euro 1) trucks and buses. Restrictions will be extended to all older vehicles from 1 July 2016 and tightened progressively between 2017 and 2020. More information can be found on www.urbanaccessregulations.eu

Eating at the wheel

There have been reports of a new law specifically prohibiting drivers from eating or applying make-up at the wheel. In fact this is not new, and there is no specific law to this effect. Eating/drinking etc. at the wheel is already covered under the more general French equivalent of our 'Driving without due care and attention' (article R.412-6 of the Code de la Route).

[July 2015]

Breathalysers

1 March 2012 - the French government confirmed that from 1 July 2012 drivers of all motor vehicles and motorcycles (excluding mopeds) must carry a breathalyser. The regulation will be enforced from 1 November 2012 and anyone stopped after that date who fails to produce a breathalyser when requested will receive an on the spot fine of €11.

October 2012 - the French government announced that the implementation of the sanction for drivers not carrying a breathalyser – a fine of €11 – has been postponed from 1 November 2012 to 1 March 2013.

January 2013 - the French government announced that the implementation of the sanction for drivers not carrying a breathalyser – a fine of €11 – has been postponed indefinitely.

So theoretically you are still required to carry a self-test breathalyser when driving in France but there is no current legislation demanding a fine for non-compliance.

The original official announcement stated that one unused, certified breathalyser must be produced showing the French certification mark NF. Carrying two single-use breathalysers will ensure that if one is used or damaged, you will still have a spare to produce. The breathalyser produced has to be in date - single-use breathalysers normally have a validity of twelve months.

July 2015 - the drink drive limit for novice drivers (less than three years driving experience) has been reduced to 0.02%, the same level as that applied to bus/coach drivers.

AA touring tips

France(pdf)

Reflective clothing for motorcyclists

January 2012 - the French government announced that from 1 January 2013 all drivers and passengers of a motorcycle over 125cc or a motor tricycle over 15 KW/h must wear reflective clothing when riding their vehicles and in the event of an emergency stop/breakdown.

January 2013 - the French government announced that the law that made reflective equipment compulsory for motorcycle riders and passengers in France from 1 January has been abolished.

[The requirement was to have been that clothing must have a minimum reflective surface of 150cm2 (approx 23in2) in total, either in one piece or in several pieces, and must be worn between the neck and waist.]

January 2016 - from January 2016 it will be compulsory for all motorcyclists (two or three wheels) to carry reflective jackets and wear them in the event of an emergency/breakdown.

Satnav and speed camera alerts

Since 3 January 2012 French laws have prohibited drivers from carrying any device capable of detecting speed cameras. This includes products or devices able to warn or inform of the location of speed cameras e.g. satnav or gps systems capable of showing speed camera sites as Points of Interest.

The law is primarily aimed at speed camera detectors and sat-navs. It is unlikely that the French police will turn their attention to atlases but there is no guarantee this would be the case.

As well as the ban on  warning devices, the French government is installing around 400 new, unsigned, fixed speed cameras as well as taking down signs indicating the location of existing camera sites.

If you have a satnav capable of displaying French camera locations in France then you must at least disable camera alerts. Contact the manufacturer for advice too as a software or database update is likely to be available that will remove camera data for France from the device.

If you have a satnav system built into your car then contact the vehicle manufacturer in the first instance.

More about speed camera alerts in France »

More changes proposed in France?

Road deaths in France increased by 3.7% to 3,388 in 2014 with the biggest increase amongst pedestrians, cylists and moped users.  Responding to this increase, in January 2015 the French Interior Minister announced a 26 point plan aimed at reversing the trend in road deaths.

If/when they are eventually introduced some of these measures are likely to affect visiting drivers:

  • lowering of blood alcohol limit for novice drivers (less than three years) from 0.05% to 0.02%
  • prohibition of parking within 5m of pedestrian crossings
  • increased penalties for parking on pedestrian crossings, pavements and cycle paths
  • increased use of cameras to detect red light offences
  • compulsory wearing of reflective jackets by users of powered two wheelers in the event of a breakdown
  • wider use of mobile radar speed detection
  • reduced speed limits in 'accident prone' areas
  • prohibit drivers wearing headphones

There has been no decision for the date of implementation of any of proposed changes.  We will update this information as and when the changes are announced.

(17 March 2015)

For your convenience

If you're a regular visitor or planning a longer journey through France you might be interested in the latest offering from the French road tolling authority. Sanef France has extended the Liber-t automated French tolls payment service to UK motorists through Sanef Tolling.

The Telepeage tag enables UK motorists to use the automatic telepeage/tag lanes, which have previously been reserved for French residents.

Driving further afield

Wherever you're driving check our general advice and country specific touring tips before you go.


(Updated 3 July 2015)

 

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