driving in france
useful to know

There are a few particular quirks about driving in France that take some getting used to:

At the outskirts of virtually all towns there are roundabouts. From here, if you want to head into the town follow the signs for 'Centre Ville', but stay alert, they often change direction. They will guide you to the centre. If you don't want to go into the town, follow signs for 'Toutes directions' or 'Autres directions', which have the effect of guiding you around the centre.

One potentially puzzling aspect of French road signs is that having given you the direction for a distant city, intermediate signs may be few and far between. There is a kind of presumption that you maintain the same direction until directed otherwise. This potentially confusing system is being improved, but it can cause panic if you think you're going the wrong way. Thankfully, SatNavs are coming rapidly to the rescue, but their French pronunciation can be confusing.

This is something of an archaic system, but it still survives. In many rural areas, especially as you approach small villages, be aware that although you may feel that you are on the main road (and often you are), there is a long established priority for traffic entering from the right, to which you must give way. Keep an eye on the road junction, looking for 'Give Way' signs indicating that any drivers joining from the right must give way. But it isn't always the case, and you do need to be wary in and around villages, and especially in the centre of Paris. Joining motorists don’t have to stop, you do…..even if you are travelling at speed!

Things have improved these days because officially the rule no longer applies unless clearly signposted. But if you see a sign that is a yellow diamond inside a white diamond, this is an indicator that your are on the priority road, until you see it cancelled by a black diagonal line through the sign. But not all French drivers, especially the older ones, follow the letter of the law.

Under legislation introduced in 2010, pedestrians now always have priority over cars when crossing a road. They need to show a clear intention to cross a road, described as 'an ostensible step forward or a hand gesture', and vehicles are required to stop for them. The only exception is where a designated pedestrian crossing is less than 50m distant.

Be warned. Be aware.

Check with your current insurance company for breakdown coverage while abroad. Because French autoroutes are privately owned, your European Breakdown Cover service does not extend to breakdowns on the autoroute or its service areas – you must use the emergency telephones, or drive off the autoroute before calling your breakdown service.


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