Driving in France: Speed limits driving etiquette & more

Speed limits

Being aware of speed limits is absolutely essential for motorists, which is why it’s such an important part of the UK driving test.

Of course, it’s just as vital you know what the limits are while abroad. So, if you’re planning to take to the roads in France, make sure you’re aware of how fast you’re allowed to drive, and on what type of roads:

Driving in France
  • On toll roads/main motorways: 
    130km/h (80mph)
  • On dual-carriageways and non-toll motorways: 
    110km/h (68mph)
  • Away from built-up areas: 
    90km/h (55mph)
  • In towns: 
    50km/h (30mph)      
  • On toll roads/main motorways if it's raining/you're towing a trailer/you've had a licence for less than two years: 
    110km/h (68mph)
  • On dual-carriageways and non-toll motorways if it's raining/you're towing a trailer/you've had a licence for less than two years: 
    100km/h (62mph)

Driving etiquette

Many of the rules of the road in France are similar to those in the UK. For example, you must stop at zebra crossings, all passengers must wear seatbelts and headlights should be used at night or in poor visibility.

Key fact:

  • One thing to keep in mind is the fact that the French drive on the right, which, although obvious now, could quite easily be momentarily forgotten when you first take to the road across the channel.
French street

One of the most well-known (and potentially confusing) elements of French driving etiquette is priorité à droite, which means anyone joining your road from the right hand side has priority over you.

In theory, this means that even when you're travelling at speed, you're required to stop and give way, not them.

Thankfully, this is less commonly enforced than in years gone by and is typically now signposted in areas where it applies, but it's worth being cautious and taking your foot off the gas on occasion, as some drivers might just assume you'll give them priority.

Priority signs

 

Alcohol limits

Drinking any amount of alcohol and getting behind the wheel is risky, and if you do this in France you’re even more likely to be breaking the law.

It’s worth remembering there is no safe amount of alcohol to drive on, and tolerance can vary depending on a number of factors, including: gender, weight, medication and whether or not there is food in your stomach.

It’s also a legal requirement for motorists in the country to carry an unused certified breathalyser in their vehicle, and motorists should be aware that police are permitted to carry out checks on motorists at random.

You can buy a breathalyser from high street stores such as Boots or Halfords or at the ferry port - they can cost from as little as £4.99.

Alcohol limits

Did you know?

The drink drive limit is lower than in England and Wales, with 50mg of alcohol allowed per 100ml of blood (significantly less than the 80mg limit here). So think twice before treating yourself to the wine on offer at many French service stations. The following information illustrates the consequences to your wallet and licence, should you drink and drive:

Alcohol level: Between 50mg and 90mg in 100ml of blood

Fine: More than €100

Points: Lose six points on your driving licence

So, with that in mind, and the fact driving abroad also brings a fair degree of unfamiliarity (with different customs, signs to look out for and so on), it’s really worth thinking about whether it’s just easier to completely avoid drinking alcohol before you drive.

Insurance from Swinton and Safeguard
 

Driving abroad

Be sure to check out our other driving abroad guides:

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