Now whether you are touring with a caravan, driving a motorhome or just travelling in your car through France there are some points that you must think about to make your holiday in France go smoothly.
Before I start driving in France can be a fantastic experience that you will never forget, especially getting to see some of the historical towns and quaint villages, but I have put together some tips and guidelines to hopefully keep you out of trouble!
First and probably the most obvious one, is that in many countries every passenger must wear a seatbelt. But in France it is also illegal for a child under the age of 10 to be in the front passenger seat.
One point you may not know, is that the legal age to drive in France is 18 years of age? So even if you passed your driving test in the UK at the age of 17, you still cannot drive in France, plus you are not allowed to drive in France on a Provisional licence.
Also, you must also carry your driving licence with you at all times and these days it also advisable to have one of the photocard driving licences. If you do have one of the old green style driving licences then it is recommended to update this to a photocard licence or obtain an International Driving Permit.
Documents When Driving In France
I would always check before driving In France that every person travelling with you on holiday to France has a valid passport including children and any pets.
You must also carry the V5 car log book, the MOT certificate if this is applicable and of course a valid certificate of motor insurance, but please remember that even if you have Comprehensive cover on your policy you may only be covered Third Party in Europe unless you upgrade your insurance policy.
Also, everyone in your group should have the new European Health Insurance Card and hopefully this will never be needed, but accidents do happen!
When it travelling with pets you also need to be able to prove that not only do they have a passport, but their injections are all up to date, but even this is changing in Jan 2012.
Another good idea, even though the original documents are needed, I would advise taking photocopies of all of these including your passports and credit cards, then keep a copy at home, preferably with a relative that you can contact in an emergency and another copy with you in a safe place, and separate to the originals, just in case anything gets lost or stolen.
Equipping your Car
OK, the first thing you need to do is make sure that you have headlight deflectors for your lights so that you do not dazzle other motorists when driving on the opposite side of the road.
Next is to have a GB sticker on your vehicle and also another on the caravan or trailer if you are towing.
Also it is also a legal requirement to have the following in your car:
– Emergency triangle, although in some EU countries 2 or 3 are required if towing.
– Reflective safety jackets for each passenger.
– Fire extinguisher.
– First aid kit.
– Replacement bulb kit (s).
– Spare wheel.
– Replacement fuses.
– Extending Mirrors if towing a caravan.
A new law that I have heard about is that from June, July time 2012, you will need to carry your own breathalyser testing kit when in France, but you may need to check this as regulations do change
French Road Speed Limits
When it comes to speed limits the motorways are 130km per hour, but this goes down to 110km per hour in bad weather conditions.
On duel carriageways the limit is 110km per hour and main roads are 90km per hour, with the periphery being 80km per hour, but again in bad weather the same rule as a motorway applies, where the speed limit is reduced in bad weather.
Towns and minor roads are a maximum of 50km per hour, although you will find that some roads will be less.
If you are towing a caravan or driving a RV and the total gross weight of the whole outfit is more than 3,500kg, then the speed limit is reduced, as you are classed as a heavy goods vehicle. For example, the max speed on a motorway for HGVs is 110km per hour.
Do make sure you watch your speed!
Now, if you are stopped for speeding you can be fined on the spot and the fines have to be paid in cash there and then, which can be quite expensive, if you cannot pay or you are travelling more than 25km/h above the legal speed limit, then your car could be impounded, so do be careful, especially when on the toll roads, as you do not want your holiday in France to come to an abrupt end!
Also, there are lots of satellite navigation systems on the market that have a warning system for speed cameras, but it is also illegal to have this facility turned on, otherwise you could end up with a hefty fine if you are caught.
Vehicle Driving Lights
As I mentioned earlier, you must have deflectors if your are driving a right-hand drive vehicle.
In bad weather, fog etc, even during the day, it is compulsory to use your lights, but you do not have to keep your lights on during the day unless you are towing.
Drink Driving and Alcohol
The legal limit of alcohol in the blood is actually less in France than it is within the UK, and when driving abroad you really think about a policy of NO drink and driving, if you do the penalties for drink driving can be severe, plus the police often carry out spot checks and random breath tests as we have seen when we have been on camping holidays in France.
Also, in France the law states that if you are the first to arrive on a scene of any road accident, you must stop and provide assistance, and you have a duty to call the police immediately, who will then also notify the fire brigade and ambulance services if necessary.
If it is you involved in an accident, then the obvious thing is to call the police straight away, but you should always have an European Accident statement form that you can obtain from your insurance company.
OK, if you do happen to break down whilst in France, the first thing you should do is to put out at least one warning triangle (the legal requirement) at around 30 metres from the vehicle, but it is recommended to use two.
If you do need assistance and you are on a motorway then you must call the police as they will instruct a breakdown truck to come to your aid, now this can obviously be done through your mobile phone or via one of the emergency telephones, which you will see along the roadside.
Hope you have found this helpful, but please do bear in mind that driving regulations do change and this is only a general guide, so it always advisable to check everything in detail prior to your journey abroad.
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