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Driving in France
If you’re considering a new life in France, then it pays to know ahead of time what you’ll need to bear in mind when it comes to driving as an expat on French roads. It may well be that you’ve driven in France plenty of times during your holidays over the years, but making sure you stay on the right side of the law as a resident is arguably even more important. In order to help you, we’ve put together this article that will give you a good overview of what your obligations are.
Your driving licence
As a UK resident moving to France, in order to drive on the right side of the law in France, you need to have a valid and current UK drivers licence and you must be over the minimum driving age in France which is 18 years old. And needless to say, if there are any medical notes outlined on your drivers licence, you need to comply with them, even when driving in France.
Under normal circumstances, there will be no requirement for you to change your licence to a French licence unless it expires or is lost or stolen. That said, you only need to look on the expat forums to see that there are various incidences where French police have put pressure on drivers with UK licences who have committed offences (such as speeding) to change their licences to French licences so that points can be withdrawn. Yes, withdrawn…in France, your licence starts with 12 points and offence penalties are withdrawn. When you have no points left, you lose the legal right to drive.
Again whether or not you need to import your UK car into France when you become resident is a point of much discussion. There are various sources of information online that will suggest loopholes about to how to avoid importing your car to France, but if you want to do things by the book, then the likelihood is that it’s best to import your car and equip it with its French number plates.
Doing this is relatively straightforward and involves a visit to the Prefecture where they will provide you with all the paperwork you need. Once this paperwork has been completed, you’ll be provided with what was previously called a carte grise and is now called a Certificat d’Immatriculation, which is the official document for your car in France that you’ll need to provide for insurance, repairs and if you’re stopped by the police.
When it comes to safety, your car needs to be roadworthy and needs to have insurance and (depending on its age) a valid Control Technique, equivalent of an MOT, as well as a spare wheel that’s fit for purpose, reflective jackets and a warning triangle/kit.
Driving safely on French roads
The French are as much fans of making money from speed traps as the UK and even deep in the countryside you’ll regularly come across a couple of gendarmes with a mobile speed camera, come rain or shine, so it’s well worth being vigilant and watching your speed. In France, the speed limits depend on which road you’re driving on as well as the weather conditions and they are as follows:
Although a common caricature of a Frenchman is that he’s driving home because he’s had too much red wine to be able to walk, the rules associated with drink driving in France are in fact strict. Anything over 50mg (80mg in the UK) of alcohol in your blood will give rise to a fine and the possibility of penalty points and the suspension of your licence. So however tempted you may be, drinking and driving in France is no better an idea than it is in the UK.
Mobile phones and seat belts
Rules regarding mobile phones and seatbelts in France are again as strict as they are in the UK, so make sure you don’t get caught out, be safe!
A great source of responses to all your driving questions in France is the website Bison Futé, it’s even got a translation in English nowadays.