Driving

Speed, alcohol limits and other rules in France

Read a few of the most important rules and tips we have written for you in this guide. Each country is a bit different, and better to learn about these differences before you experience them yourself on the road.

Speed limits

Cities and other built-up areas: 50km/h (31mph)
Outside built-up areas: 90km/h (55mph) and 80 km/h (49mph) in wet weather
City ring roads: vary between 80 and 110 km/h (49-68 mph)
Motorways (Autoroutes): 130 Km/h (80mph) regularly and 110 km/h (68 mph) in wet weather

Alcohol limits

Blood 0.5g/l alcohol
Exhaled air 0.25mg/l
I.e. a couple of glasses of wine or beer.

Other rules

Minimum driving age: 18 years
Minimum age to be allowed sitting on the front-seat: 10 years
Seat belts are compulsory for both front- and rear-seats.
Motorcycles must always have headlights on.

'Priorité à droite'

An old custom - it originated when there were horse-drawn carriages on the roads. You always give priority to traffic coming from the right unless there is a sign saying otherwise. Many junctions and crossroads (even high streets in the city) have no priority marked, which means you give way to the right. This is a cause of many accidents among French drivers and it is common for foreigners to get themselves into trouble with this. Roundabouts have been introduced more over the last 15 years, but they still remain a misery to some French drivers. New ones tend to have priority for the cars on them, but older junctions have priority for cars entering (the most famous example is the Arc de Triomphe in Paris, where lines of cars stop for traffic entering).

Traffic signs

  • flashing traffic orange light = 'Caution'
  • flashing yellow arrow = 'Yield with caution'
  • text: Danger: Prioritè à Droite = reminder of the priority on the right at crossroads
  • text: Vouz n'avez pas la priorité = you do not have the right of way (i.e. give way)
  • text: Cèdez le passage = give way
  • text: Toutes Directions or Autres Directions = All other directions (i.e. usually the best way to pass through a town or city)
  • text: Déviation = Diversion
  • text: Passage protégé = your right of way
  • text: Péage = Motorway Toll
  • text: Rappel = reminder
  • text: Sortie = exit

Other driving tips

Drivers do not always use indicators when changing lanes or turning, so be careful (especially in Paris).

Give bicyclists clearance of at least a metre when you pass them.

Even with enforced speed controls people drive very fast in France, especially on motorways (150-160 km/h is pretty normal).

Almost all motorways have tolls (péage), where you can always pay both in cash or credit card. Be careful before and after tolls as cars come quickly from both left and right and change lanes quickly (which is often the case along the motorway itself).

Useful links

These are some websites that might be useful (in French only if not indicated otherwise). Other links can be found in our directory.

Official information:

Traffic information:

Motorway information:

Maps and travel information:

Further reading

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