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French driving laws

When driving in France make sure that you stick to the right side of the law (and the right hand side of the road!). By knowing some of the basic traffic laws in France you can make your journey safer and stress free.

France has stricter drink driving limits than in the United Kingdom, and the penalties severe. In France only 0.5 mg/ml (rather than 0.8 mg/ml in the UK) is legal. The limit for novice drivers (under 3 years experience) is 0.02%, as from July 2015. We strongly advise that if you are driving, you do not drink at all.


Seat belts front and rear are obligatory for all passengers of vehicles travelling in France.

Speed limits

Speed limits are implemented rigorously, and radar traps common. In particular the French police are vigilant around the Calais area. For excessive speeding, French police have the power to seize your driving license on the spot.

Town speed limits (50 km per hour) begin at the city or town name - not always where you may see the first 50km per hour road sign. A town or city is usually announced via a white sign with a red border, with the town name on the sign. The speed limit will cease if you ssee a similar sign but with a black diagonal strike through.

Speed limits can change depending on if the roads are wet, so keep an eye out on signs advising if this is the case.

Use of headlights

Dipped headlights must be switched on in fog, mist or poor visibility during the day. We recommend sidelights are used when parked.

Motorbikes over 125cc must use dipped headlights during the day at all times when riding in France.

Items to carry in your vehicle

Always carry the items from our france car checklist with you at all times in your vehicle.


Children under the age of 10 years old should not ride in the front of the vehicle. Yound children should use child seats. Older children can use booster cushions if required.

Holding a mobile phone whilst driving is illegal in France. Hands-free use of mobile phones is also now illegal, as is the use of all headphone and hands-free devices (excluding hearing aids). It is not obvious whether this includes hands-free solutions integrated into the car, so we recommend avoiding using these too.