I've lost count of the number of times I've been horn-blasted in France for forgetting about the ‘Priorité à droite’. To be honest, it’s such archaic thing, even the French don’t think much of it, but it keeps everyone on their toes when approaching road junctions, especially on the edge of town. The issue is not that the modern French motorist will be a problem; it’s the older brigade, those who have never known anything other than this priority, and see no reason for the change, even assuming they knew there had been a change.
It is an archaic law that dates from the time of horse and cart and seems never to have been repealed. And yet the French have spent millions to indicate that it does not apply – in most circumstances – even the French Highway Code has virtually nothing to say about it.
Keep an eye on road junctions, 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! Be especially vigilant at crossroads indicated by a triangular sign, bordered red, with a black cross in it.
Of course, things have improved in recent years 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. However, in rural areas you will often find that Priorité à droite is still assumed, even if there is no road signage: the safest guidance is to assume that cars coming from the right, as you approach a junction, are not going to stop. The onus is on the car on the left to slow down, and, if necessary, give way. In the event of a collision, the car approaching from the left will almost certainly take the blame.
Word of advice: keep your eyes open, and your break foot ready, but don’t get hung up about it.