driving in france

keeping it legal

Police have wide powers to check documents at any time and to impose on-the-spot fines that can make your eyes water for almost all driving offences. In the case of more serious offences, especially if alcohol is involved, they may at their own discretion confiscate the vehicle.

Minimum age
The minimum age for driving in France is 18, even if you hold a full driving licence from another country.

Travellers from other European Union countries and North America can drive in France with a valid national or home-state driving licence. An international driving licence is useful but not obligatory.

It is necessary to have the registration papers (logbook) and a nationality plate of an approved size.

Insurance cover is compulsory and although an International Motor Insurance Certificate (known in the UK as a green card) is no longer a legal requirement in France for vehicles registered in the UK, it is still the most effective proof of insurance cover and is internationally recognised by the police and other authorities. If you have comprehensive insurance, you may want to check that your insurance cover is unaffected by driving abroad; many insurers limit the number of days you can drive abroad.

Fluorescent jackets
When driving in France, don't forget to carry a fluorescent jacket...All vehicles driving on French roads must carry a yellow fluorescent jacket for each passenger in the car, that can be put on if the occupants have to get out in an emergency. The jacket must be carried inside the car, not in the boot (not in the trunk), and be readily accessible. Drivers not carrying the obligatory jacket may receive an instant fine, if stopped by police.

Breath test kit
Drivers and motorcyclists are obliged to carry a breath test in their vehicles. Foreign visitors and tourists also come under the law. Anyone found not carrying a breath test kit will face a fine, and only two-wheelers of under 50cc will be exempt.

Single use breath test kits are available in supermarkets, pharmacies and garages at a nominal cost (little more than 1€ each). So, it is a good idea to carry more than one, and use them if you think you've had too much to drink and drive.

Don't forget that the drink drive limit in France is lower than in the UK and the USA. The best advice is the same everywhere: DON'T DRINK AND DRIVE.

Warning triangle
In the case of a breakdown, a red warning triangle and hazard warning lights are obligatory.

Seatbelts must be worn at all times when driving in France

© ATOUT FRANCE/Cédric Helsly

Full or dipped headlights must be used if it is raining, in poor visibility and at night; use sidelights only when the vehicle is stationary. Headlights should be adjusted for driving on the right. It is illegal to drive with faulty lights, so it is advisable to take a full set of replacement bulbs with you.

Use of mobile phones while driving
Drivers caught using a mobile phone while driving are liable to an on-the-spot fine.

Seatbelts must be worn at all times when driving in France, by both adults and children, and both in the back and front seats. Rear passengers can only travel without seatbelts in the back of older cars in which they are not fitted.

Children in cars
Children under 10 years old are not allowed to travel in the front seat of a car, unless there are no back seats. Children under 10 years of age must travel in the back, using an appropriate child seat or booster seat. Babies are allowed to travel in the front passenger seat, but only when placed in an approved rear-facing baby seat and the airbag is turned off.


If you are involved in any accident involving two or more vehicles, you will be asked to fill in a "Constat amiable" by the driver of a French car involved. This is standard practice.

If possible, call your insurance company at once on your mobile phone. They may put you in touch with a local French representative.

If you are involved in an accident involving any sort of injury - even if it is not your fault – you MUST remain until the police have come.

If your car is immobilised on or partly on the road due to a breakdown or an accident, you must set up your red warning triangle at a suitable distance behind the vehicle, to alert approaching traffic to the hazard, and you must wear a fluorescent jacket.

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