Legal Requirements For Driving In Europe

Driving provence

In the excitement of planning a driving holiday on the other side of the Channel it can often be easy to forget that there are different rules for French roads than for those in the UK. No one wants to come back from a holiday having had a bad experience on the roads, but the system is not that complex, as long as you remember a few basic requirements. For anyone making a trip across the Channel behind the wheel, here is a summary of some of the most important legal requirements for driving on the Continent.

The first thing to remember when driving on the Continent is that you must drive on the right hand side of the road. Everyone who drives off the ferry has a small, forgivable moment of panic about which lane to pull into, but other than the odd mistake, you must stay in the right lane – if you don’t feel comfortable with this then you should not drive in France. One of the main things to remember about the French roads is that drivers who are on the main road will usually have priority. The exception to this is where there is a ‘priorite a droit’ sign, which indicates that the driver must give way to traffic approaching the main road.

UK drivers should always carry a driving licence, vehicle registration documents and insurance details in case of being stopped and asked to produce them. In order to legally drive in France, a driver should have held a driving licence for at least a year and be at least 18 years old.

Speed limits for driving in France should be respect as, whilst there might be a little leeway on the less dangerous roads, simply not knowing what the speed limit is will not be a good enough excuse for anyone caught driving too fast. 50kmph is the limit in most towns, drivers will need to keep below 90kmph on main roads, 110kmph on a dual carriageway and 130kmph on the motorways.

Given the French penchant for wine with every meal, it might be a surprise to learn that the French limit for drink driving is actually lower than the UK. Even though most of the service stations in the country will serve wine with meals and seem to encourage the consumption of booze by drivers, if you have more than one small beer then you are drinking driving, and this law is strictly enforced. Basically, if you are planning to drive in France – just like anywhere else in the world – don’t drink.

2012 saw the introduction of a new law that requires all cars and motorbikes to carry a breathalyzer or alcohol level test. This applies to anyone behind the wheel on the French roads, regardless of nationality, from 1 July. There is a small grace period between July and November for those who don’t get it right and after that the fine is €11. The tests cost about €1 and can be purchased from most supermarkets. Anyone caught using a mobile phone at the wheel will also find their coffers being emptied, as this can result in an on the spot fine of €130 for anyone who is caught.

When it comes to kids, all children under 10 years old must travel in the back of the car. The only exception to this is where there are no seatbelts in the back. Babies can travel in the front seat as long as they are strapped into a proper car seat, which must be an approved, rear-facing model. Seatbelts are compulsory for everyone travelling in the car, whether adult or child.

The legal requirements for driving on the continent are not particularly onerous and in most cases, it is just a case of using common sense about how to behave and how to drive. If in doubt, simply err on the side of caution and slow down, strap in and stay on the right.

John is a guest blogger from Alamo who provide cheap car hire in France and UK car hire

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