About French Motoring Law

About French Motoring Law

We may make around 12 million trips to France each year but UK motorists are surprisingly ignorant of French driving laws, as new research carried out by Alcosense reveals, polling 750 UK motorists who had driven to Europe in their own car in the past two years.

When asked to name the items to carry inside your car, over half of drivers polled (56%) couldn’t think of ANY – despite having driven to Europe recently.

Ignorance of things you need in your car when driving in France

Only a quarter (26%) mentioned you have to carry a hi-viz jacket for each occupant of the car. A third (34%) were aware of the requirement for a warning triangle, but just 24% mentioned the need to carry an alcohol breathalyser. And only 15% knew the need for spare bulbs.

Polled drivers were just as ignorant when it comes to what a UK-registered car must have on its exterior.

Three fifths (60%) hadn’t a clue. Only a third (33%) mentioned the need for a GB sticker (or GB symbol within the number-plate) and just 14% remembered headlamp beam deflectors to avoid dazzling oncoming traffic.
When specifically asked if a breathalyser must be carried in the car, less than half (48%) said yes. When told this is mandatory under French law, only 45% thought it needed to meet any criteria at all whereas as few as 10% knew that it has to be an approved type ie NF-approved – the French version of the British Standard KiteMark. Unsurprisingly, only a third carried a NF-approved breathalyser in their car the last time they drove in France.

British drivers were no better informed when it comes to required documentation.

  • Only 42% believed you had to carry proof of ownership (V5/logbook). 
  • Just 45% were aware of the need to have your MOT certificate (if the car is over three years old) and insurance documents.
  • Less than a fifth of respondents (17%) were able to correctly state the drink drive limit in France – this is 25 micrograms of alcohol per 100 mL of breath.

And only the same number (17%) were aware that the limit is lower if you passed your test less than three years ago – then it’s just 10 micrograms of alcohol per 100mL of breath.
Respondents were then asked whether a number of statements were correct.

  • Only a fifth (19%) were correct stating that you cannot listen to excessively loud music when driving. That’s true.
  • Half the sample thought that you cannot eat or apply make up on French roads. That’s true too.  
  • Nearly a third (31%) thought you can use a hands-free headset. They are wrong – the use of all headsets and headphones is banned.

And as many as three quarters of the sample were unaware that, if you require glasses for driving, you MUST also carry a spare pair.

About emission zones in France

Some French cities such as Paris, Lyon and Grenoble are designated low emission zones, where the most polluting vehicles are either banned or charged an access fee. 
Yet only a quarter of British motorists (27%) thought that specific action was required when driving in these cities.
But, when even those drivers were asked what that action was, two-thirds didn’t have a clue. 

Just 28% thought some sort of ‘sticker’ was needed. 
NB: French law states that a clean air sticker, called a Crit’Air vignette, must be displayed to identify what emissions your vehicle produces.  They cost about €3 – but failure to have one on your windscreen could result in a fine of €68.

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