So understandably you want to know, what do you need to drive in France legally during 2016?
Well here I will cover all those points in detail so you can relax and not have to be worried about breaking any French driving laws.
I will break things down into the two main categories that are “equipment” and “documents”. I will also sub divide them into compulsory and optional extras that you may want to consider.
Bearing in mind that the French police issue some pretty hefty on the spot fines to drivers falling foul of their driving laws it’s advisable to double check everything on the list before you set off.
Driving Licence, Passport, Car Insurance Policy, V5 Document (Log Book). The MOT certificate is also compulsory to carry if your car requires one. If your car is less than 3 years old then it will not require an MOT certificate and older classic status cars are also exempt.
Most of the above is logical if you consider what may happen while you are there. If you get stopped by the police in the UK or are involved in some sort of motoring incident (accident or breakdown) you could easily produce all those documents at a later date but while abroad you need to have all these to hand or it will cause you big problems. Not to mention possible on-the-spot fines.
If you are driving a company car abroad then check with your employer as they may not wish to give you the V5 and insurance documents and in the case of lease cars they might not even have them. You may have to take photo copies.
Before you leave for France it is worth checking with your insurance company that you are covered to drive the car abroad. Most companies allow holiday trips but make sure and it really is worth checking to see if you will be covered totally while driving in France, because some "Fully Comprehensive" insurance policies revert to just being “Third party” insurance only when driving overseas.
I strongly suggest you get the phone number from them that you will need to ring in the event of an accident or having your car stolen etc whilst in France. It will save time and money if you can just ring the correct number.
Some insurance companies have dedicated teams you can ring to speak to whilst abroad and they will be able to speak English to you and speak French to any other parties involved which is a great help.
If you have car breakdown cover do the same with your breakdown firm as you don’t want to find out whilst encountering problems that you are not going to get help when you need it most.
If you do get involved in an accident or breakdown it is sometimes useful to have a photo copy of your insurance details to give to interested parties. Read our post on “Accident and Breakdown” here.
I stress I've never had any problem whilst on the roads in France but it really is best to plan for the worst case scenario.
Something the French police are quite hot on is reporting accidents so if the language is going to be a problem I strongly suggest you take photographs if you are involved in one as this may help you.
Not actually a document but something I always carry is an old fashioned road atlas for France just in case my Sat Nav fails me.
Of all the optional Insurances I think that European Breakdown Cover is the one you should seriously consider.
Hi Viz Vest
See our “All in One Kit”
* Let me say at this point that it is still a legal requirement that you carry breathalysers though the rules have been changed yet again and there is no longer a fine for not carrying them. So you could argue that there is no real point in taking them.
Regarding Hi Viz Vests, anyone stood on the hard shoulder should be wearing one so ideally you should carry one for each passenger who is standing outside the car in the event of accident or breakdown. It is often not safe to stay in the vehicle and I would therefore advise you each have one and get away from the vehicle in a safe place. You need to be able to reach them from inside the car not have them stowed away in the boot or in a roof box.
A GB sticker needs to be displayed at the rear of your vehicle and anything you are towing also. Headlamp Beam Converters need to be fitted even if driving during daylight hours. A warning triangle needs to be carried in the car that is EU standard, be careful buying cheap ones from auction websites as many that are advertised as being compliant are not.
It is illegal not to have a spare bulb if ones blows in your car and this attracts a 90 Euro fine. It's almost impossible to have every single bulb so most people just take a bulb kit that covers the vast majority of common bulbs and this will usually be enough to satisfy the police. It's the people who don't carry any at all who generally get fined.
For anyone who wears spectacles for driving it is compulsory for you to carry a spare pair in the car with you while in France.
Extra things like First Aid kits are purely a matter of choice. Though a popular item is a “Drive Right” lane help sticker which people who have never driven on the right hand side of the road before find useful.
The main "Don't" is a strong warning about speed camera detection aids. Radar detector equipment is a definite no no in France. A factory fitted GPS (Sat Nav) in your car that warns of mobile speed cameras that is illegal in most European countries (definitely in France) and comes with a HUGE fine.
It is possible with a lot of Sat Navs to disable the ‘fixed speed camera" through the "Point of Interest" function. I'd advise checking with the manufacturer or read the manual if you still have it. The fines are around 1,500 Euros so it really is a must to get them deactivated.
Even worse is the fact that they will impounded the device so if you have a portable GPS you will lose it and even worse if it's fitted in the cars dashboard rather than an after-market version you've bought separately yourself that means they will take the car along with it!
It is NOT necessary to have one for driving in France though if you plan on driving in Spain and other Non-EU countries you should have one. You can get one from the Post Office and they are currently just £5.50 and they last for 12 months. *Correct as of April 2015.
See the Post Office Website here for more details. It is worth pointing out that the minimum driving age for UK residents to drive in France is 18 (not 17).
I generally drive with my dipped headlights on all the time, though I will mention that it is a must if visibility is poor due to the weather.
This page about French Road Signs is very useful if you have not driven in France before as the main road does not always have priority in France as they have an ancient law that is often used especially in some rural parts of France.