If you plan on driving in France, becoming familiar with the country's driving laws is a wise choice. Here, we will discuss the rules and regulations which you should be aware of before your trip. This includes France's driving laws and important child safety information which can help you avoid legal trouble.
France Driving Laws: Minimum Age and Rules Pertaining to Children
The minimum driving age in France is 18, but depending upon which car rental supplier you use there may be a "young driver" fee for drivers below 21 or 23 years of age. This fee isn't typically very high, but it will apply for every day of your rental.
Children under 10 years of age are not permitted in the front seat of a car in France. Exceptions include if there is no rear seat, the rear seats are already occupied by children under 10 or if there are no seat belts available in the rear seat.
While there is no specific minimum height requirement for the use of booster seats issued by the French Highway Code, Auto Europe recommends that the minimum height set by the European Directive (150cm or 59 inches) be observed. Children under the age of 10 must be fitted with an appropriately sized child seat or restraint.
Driving Insurance and Other Safety Rules in France
During any road trip in France you will need a recognized driver's license. You do not need an international driver's permit if your stay in France is for fewer than 90 days and you are visiting from the USA or Canada, but it is recommended for visitors from other countries and for visitors from the US considering a one-way international rental as your destination may require it.
Drivers in France should make certain that proof of ownership and proper identification is carried in the vehicle at all times. This includes your signed car rental agreement and your passport and driving license. If you are planning to stay in France for more than 3 months you should plan to obtain a French driving license.
Proof of insurance is required for Drivers in France - whether your personal insurance covers you or you obtain rental car insurance from Auto Europe it is important to have documentation on hand during your trip to France in the event that you need it.
Using your cell phone or mobile device while driving is illegal and carries an on-the-spot fine of 130 Euros.
While wine is offered at many French motorway stops, driving under the influence is a serious offense. The legal limit in France is .05%. Don't drink and drive and don't speed (there are numerous unmarked speed cameras and driving too fast isn't worth the hefty fines speeding will incur).
Additional France Driving Rules and Regulations
Traffic in France drives on the right side of the road and traditionally drivers yield to cars approaching from the right hand side.
Seat belts must be worn by the driver and all passengers while driving in France.
Headlights must be used during poor visibility - including during daylight hours. Auto Europe recommends that drivers use their headlights whether driving during the day or night.
In villages and cities when you see a "priorite a droite" sign you must yield to traffic coming from the right - they have the right of way.
Pay close attention when entering a roundabout in France. If there is a sign which reads "Vous n'avez pas la priorite" or "Cedez le passage" the traffic currently circling the roundabout has the right of way. If no such sign is present then traffic entering and exiting the roundabout has the right of way. More information and images of these signs are available in the France Road Signs section of this guide.
The use of a horn in cities and villages is prohibited unless the driver feels he or she is in immediate danger.
In France it is illegal to carry or use a radar detector - if you have one which you're planning to bring to France you should scratch that idea and leave it at home.
All motorists in France must carry a breathalyser in good working order and you must be able to produce this for a sobriety test in the event that you are stopped. France takes driving while intoxicated very seriously and the legal limit of 0.05% is lower than it is in the US. Be smart and avoid driving after you've consumed alcohol.
At the rental desk when picking up your car you should verify that the vehicle comes with a warning triangle and reflective jacket. These items are required in France and if you get a flat tire you must put on the reflective vest before exiting the vehicle. All rental cars should have this equipment, but it's smart to verify this before setting out on your trip.
Traffic violations in France carry an on-the-spot fine due in either Euros or Travelers Cheques. You may be in the habit of using your credit card for most purchases but it's a good idea to keep some cash or travelers cheques on hand in case you are stopped by the police and fined.
Speed Limits in France
Unless otherwise marked there are standard speed limits throughout France which are determined by the type of road, the area and the current driving conditions. These standard speed limits in France apply to all vehicles without a trailer, but they can be altered by official signs so it is important to pay attention.
In general "built-up areas" (cities, towns and villages) have a standard speed limit of 31mph (50km/h). While driving beyond these congested areas you're typically free to drive 55mph (90km/h). While driving urban motorways and two-lane highways separated by a central island speeds up to 80mph (130km/h) are standard.
It should be noted, however, that speed limits are reduced during periods of inclement weather and that these reduced speeds also apply for visiting drivers who have held a driving license for less than 3 years. 55mph zones become 49mph (80km/h) zones, 68mph motorways become 62mph (100km/h) motorways. The driving speed in 80mph zones in France is reduced to 68 mph (110km/h) during wet weather. Also worth noting: the minimum speed on highways in France is 49mph (80km/h).