Driving in France & Onwards

Driving in France

With France being such a short distance away from us it is the holiday destination of choice of many islanders in Jersey and Guernsey to pack up the car and head off on the ferry to the country of croissants, baguettes and delicious local cheese and wine. Not to mention the unique charm of French medieval villages, quaint harbour towns and grand chateaux. Gites and camping sites are popular with islanders too and can offer a low cost holiday break, great for families.

France has so much to offer us and is so very accessible but if you are not familiar with driving there (remember they drive on the right) research is vital to understand their road signs and rules of the road, not to mention when you may have to pay motorway tolls and what to do in the event of an accident or breakdown.

Islands have put together some top tips for driving in France which you will find below, and if your motor vehicle is insured with us you will have motoring peace of mind with our European breakdown cover, so make sure you have your documents and our 24 hour helpline number to hand.

It is important to follow the correct emergency procedure and if you breakdown on the motorway you must walk to the nearest emergency telephone, placed every two kilometres, and call for assistance. You will be towed to a designated area where those with European cover will be met by their breakdown provider. You cannot call for them to pick you up directly from the motorway.

Whilst driving to your French destination if you fancy a short break look out for signs showing ‘aires’ approx every 20 kilometres along the motorways. Some offer just a picnic area and toilet facilities, while the ‘aires de service’ provide something similar to British service stations.

There are 35 villages in France that are designated as ‘villages etapes’, another useful sign to lookout for. These villages are selected because they offer a good way of making your journey more interesting and provide services such as cafés, restaurants, toilets and overnight accommodation, as well as something of interest to explore.

With effect from July this year the speed limit has been reduced on secondary two-lane highways to 80 kilometres per hour from 90 kilometres (55 miles) per hour as these types of roads (two-lane routes with no separating guardrail) have been notorious accident spots.

In 2012 drivers were ordered to carry a portable breathalyser kit in each car, currently the fine for not carrying one has been postponed indefinitely but you are still required to carry one.

Our advice is to plan your journey as much as you can and when and where you might stop and take a break. Make sure you have all the right documentation and accessories in your car and you are familiar with road signs and regulations. Take it easy at first, particularly at junctions, and bear in mind that there are other foreign drivers just as confused and anxious as you might be.

So be as prepared as you can and as they say in France ‘bonne chance’!

Important information for Jersey or Guernsey residents driving a vehicle or riding a motorcycle in France

Items you should have with you in your car at all times

  • your full driving licence (make sure it is not provisional and is still valid)
  • the original vehicle registration document
  • your motor insurance certificate / windscreen insurance disc
  • your passport
  • an oval plate or sticker with the letters GBJ/GBG on the vehicle (relying on the letters beneath the badge on your number plate is not enough)
  • a warning triangle
  • a reflective jacket / waistcoat for driver and every passenger
  • Spare bulbs - by law you’re also mandated to carry a spare bulb kit for your vehicle, as the French police deem it necessary to replace it there and then on the grounds of safety.
  • a self-test breathalyser - The enforcement of the law making it compulsory to carry breathalysers whilst driving in France has been postponed indefinitely. Whilst the law itself is still in place the authorities have recognised problems with the supply of suitable breathalysers and will not issue fines until further notice. However it is still recommended to carry one. Please be aware that drink driving limit in France is lower than in the UK.

Top 10 Tips for driving in France

What other countries recommend

Most EU countries also recommend you have other safety equipment in the car, which on a long journey is advisable.

  • First aid kit
  • Fire extinguisher.

Motorcycling in France Requirements

You should have reflective stickers for your helmet in four places - one on the front, one at the back and one on each side. They must be fitted in a way that does not hinder the opening/closing visor of your helmet. (Some helmets have them fitted as standard). Stickers must have a minimum surface area of 18cm2.

You must also have a reflective jacket to wear in an emergency or breakdown. (A fine will apply if you get spot checked by police and you don’t have one with you) or if you are caught not wearing one at the roadside (or on the hard shoulder) in the event of an emergency due to an accident, flat tyre or breakdown (pillion passengers need to have one as well). The introduction of the fine has come into force following yet more poor figures on the number of road deaths in France.

You must also wear CE-certified gloves if you are the driver or passenger of a:

  • moped
  • motorcycle
  • motor tricycle
  • motor quadricycle

The police in most European countries may apply on the spot fines if you're driving without compulsory equipment in your vehicle.

It is the law in France and most other mainland European countries that UK cars fit headlight beam deflectors. This is simply to make sure you don't cause an accident by shining your headlight beam into oncoming traffic. They do have to be fitted even if you are only driving during daytime.

Crit'Air clean air stickers

In 2017, France introduced 'clean air' windscreen stickers. These are a legal requirement for travelling with your vehicle to their major cities and help to identify a vehicle’s emissions levels. Drivers face an on-the-spot fine of up to €135  if they don’t have one.

If you're heading to France by car and there's even a small chance you could be driving in one of these restricted cities it's a good idea to be prepared and order the required 'sticker' well before you travel.

All vehicles, including motorbikes, driving in central Paris, Lyon and Grenoble now need to display a special ‘pollution sticker’. You must display a sticker to drive in central Paris from 8am to 8pm on Monday to Friday. In Lyon and Grenoble the requirement to display a sticker can be implemented at any time, depending on pollution levels. Some older vehicles don’t qualify for a sticker at all due to their high emissions; these vehicles can’t be driven in central Paris at all from 8am to 8pm on Monday to Friday.

There are six different types of sticker depending on the emissions of your vehicle. Find out more info and how to apply for one on this link

Items you shouldn't use

The use of radar detectors is forbidden in France and most countries in Europe. Radar detectors are illegal in France whether in use or not. If you are caught with such equipment in your vehicle, you are liable to a fine, confiscation of the device and the vehicle. You should therefore ensure radar detectors are removed from your vehicle before commencing any journey to France. Many countries also demand the deactivation of GPS navigation system facilities that show the location of fixed speed cameras.

It is now illegal to use safety camera warning devices when travelling in France even if this is in-built within your Sat-Nav. The advice is to disable safety camera alerts before driving in France. Fines may be heavy if you are caught.

An International Driving Permit (IDP) is recommended for certain countries (it is not a requirement in France). You'll need an IDP alongside your Jersey or Guernsey driving licence.

For more information, including how to apply visit…
Jersey - My Parish Online 
Guernsey - Driver & Vehicle Licensing 

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