French Driving Laws
French driving laws are very similar to those you’ll come across in the UK. However, there’s a number of differences which to observe to ensure you don’t get caught out.
Many traffic offences also incur points on your licence. At present points will not be added for foreign drivers however this may change.
Read on to find out about some of the more common driving laws in France and the likely penalties for infringement. Please note that we do not cover every French driving law!
Please do not drive in France unless you have the following:
- A drivers licence
- Vehicle insurance which covers you abroad
- Valid mot and tax
- Vehicle registration document (V5)
Before you travel please ensure you take the relevant paperwork with you! In the UK you don’t have to carry these items however in France you need to be able to produce them on the spot.
Fines for failing to produce your documents are as follows:
- Failure to provide registration document – €11 min €33 max
- Fail to provide insurance certificate €22 min €75 max
- No MOT €90 min €375 max
Speed limits are covered in more depth in our French speed limits page. The fines for breaking the speed limit are based upon how many km/h over and above the limit you are travelling at. Speed limit fines can range from €68 up to €3750.
Vehicles must use dipped headlights at all times to prevent other drivers being dazzled. When the driver of a motor vehicle doesn’t turn off their main beam at a junction, when following other drivers or when overtaking it is likely that other drivers will be dazzled as a result.
In France this is an offence and is dealt with by way of a fine amounting to anywhere between €90 and €375. Similar fines also apply for UK vehicles failing to have the appropriate headlight adaptors fitted.
Crossing Solid White Lines
As in the UK crossing a solid white line without excuse eg: overtaking a bicycle or avoiding an object in the road, is punishable by a fine. Fines for this type of offence range between €90 and €375.
Driving Whilst Using a Mobile Phone
Using a mobile phone whilst driving in France is illegal just like it is in the UK. Failure to comply with this by either speaking or texting on your phone will incur a fine between €90 and €375.
Driving Whilst Using a Headset or Headphones
The use of a handsfree headset or headphone while driving is also illegal in France and will incur a fine of between €90 and €375.
Failure to Wear a Seatbelt
As in the UK failure to wear a seatbelt could see you having to pay a fine. The difference in France is that it could be an on the spot fine of anything between €90 and €375, so make sure you belt up!.
Non Compliance with Safety Distances
If you’re old enough to remember TV in the 1970’s the next may ring a bell “Only a fool breaks the 2 second rule”. It was a road traffic safety campaign in the 1970’s and is still relevant today especially in France.
In France there is a 2 second minimum distance between 2 vehicles which is needed to help prevent accidents. The 2 second space gives a reactionary gap large enough to prevent many accidents. In France, failure to observe the 2 second gap will leave you with a fine between €90 and €375.
The time it takes to say “Only a fool breaks the 2 second rule” is two seconds so if you think you’re travelling too close pick a fixed object and say the phrase when the vehicle infant passes it. If you pass it before you’ve said “Only a fool breaks the 2 second rule” then you are too close.
Use of a Screened Device within Field of View
This offence occurs when you have anything with a screen, such as tablet, tv, mobile phone or other electrical device other than satellite navigation in your field of view when you are the driver of a motor vehicle. Penalties for this offence stand at a whopping €1500.
Failure to Stop at a Stop Sign
Failing to actually stop at a stop sign is a straightforward offence for which you will receive a fine of between €90 and €375. Therefore you cannot just glide through the stop sign you must physically STOP.
Speed Camera Alerts and Radar Devices
The possession of radar devices used to detect speed cameras is strictly forbidden in France. Therefore if you have a satellite navigation device you must also ensure that the speed camera notification is switched off at all times. Substantial fines are charged should you fail to comply with either.
Drinking and Driving
This one is very simple! If you have a drink of alcohol DO NOT DRIVE.
Limits are somewhat lower in France and the penalties are severe for non compliance. The legal limit is 0.5 BAC whereas in the UK it’s 0.8. If you are caught in France with a reading between 0.5 and 0.8 you will receive a fine between €90 and €375. Over 0.8 and you can expect a fine of around €4500. The law states you should carry breathalysers in your vehicle when driving in France but at the moment it is not enforced.
Please note that this is not an exhaustive list and that there are many other offences. Although fines mentioned are between €90 and €375, the average figure we’ve heard being charged is €135. Many also involve points being added to your licence. Please note that this is just for information and not advice. Fines, points and laws do change so please check Legi Permis for further info.