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Driving In France

Driving In France

Just across the Narrow Sea we call the English Channel (and rightly so) is a foreign land. It is called France and they do things differently there. Considering that they are so nearby it is amazing that there are so many cultural differences. Some are well known: they can’t play football, for example and they insist on eating the limbs of amphibians. The casual observer, standing aloft on the White Cliffs of Dover, will, if the wind is on-shore, catch a whiff of garlic.

So it is with some trepidation that the average motoring holiday maker drives onto the ferry or into the belly of the railroad beast. It is another country and when you arrive everything is different. The road signs, if you can believe this, are in a foreign language. What’s that all about?

The wary driver will also notice that the popular hearsay that they drive on the other side of the road is actually true. More worryingly, they have their own rules of the road and woe betide any UK resident who transgresses. Imagine being banged up over night! Who likes jail food that moves about the plate in a shell? For the benefit of newbies at this foreign travel lark here are some facts from the land that brought you Audrey Tautou and noxious cheese.

All drivers and motorcyclists must carry a breathalyser kit that contains not one but two disposable breathalysers that must conform to French NF Standards. They sell them cheap at the ferry terminals. In the manner of all governments around Europe, the French have decided that for now any penalty issued will be postponed. Why? If you’re going to have a rule, have a rule. What’s the French for ‘fudge the issue’? Drivers still have to carry the kit though. Also, the drink drive limit is lower than here so if in doubt, don’t.

In France the cops can issue on-the-spot fines or, as they are amusingly referred to, ‘deposits’. So non-returnable then? They should issue a receipt but you’ll probably find that it’s not tax deductible unless your accountant is really good in which case he lives in the Cayman Islands. Exceed the speed limit by 40kph and your licence is taken from you. Comedy French accents don’t help, incidentally, when dealing with les flics.

Children under ten can’t sit in the front passenger seat, or, indeed drive. Your headlights must be set up to point the other way. You must carry a warning triangle, reflective jackets and a picture of Jean Reno. Worst of all, speed camera detectors are illegal and you must turn off static speed camera information if your satellite navigation system shows it. Not very sporting is it? Not the British way at all.

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- who has written 474 posts on Motor Blogger.

Geoff is a freelance writer and photographer.

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