Driving in France

Law Update, 2012

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The Breathalyser Law in France

While the Autoroutes in France are smooth and generally trouble free, your driving experience may not be if you are stopped by the police and found to be breaking the law. In France, you must carry the following items in the cabin of your car:

  1. Self breathalyser kit  

  2. High visibility jacket

  3. Warning triangle

  4. Driving licence 

  5. Vehicle insurance certificate 

  6. Vehicle registration document


The French government has approved two breathalyser kits – a cheap blow-in-the-bag tester that costs about £3 and digital versions that cost more than £100. They will be available at ferry and tunnel terminals for crossings to France, so that motorists can judge whether they are safe to drive after drinking.


The new French law, in is hoped, will reduce the number of drink-driving deaths on French roads by 500 each year.


Even if that number of lives is saved, France will still be TOP of the European drink-driving road deaths charts. In 2010, no less than 1230 deaths were attributed to drink driving in France, compared with 342 in Germany, 265 in Spain and 250 in the UK.


If you are stopped and caught without your breathalyser, you will be fined £9.






If, however, you’re caught drink driving in France – anything between 50mg and 80mg of booze in the blood – you will lose six points and get hit with a €135 fine. Above that threshold, you can lose you’re licence altogether and even be sent to prison.

If you are at 0.8 grams or over the legal limit your license can be detained for 72 hours, your vehicle is immobilised, unless a passenger is available to drive your vehicle. A passenger (even if not over the alcohol limit) that is in the front of the vehicle that is accompanying a drunk driver can also suffer the same sanctions as the driver as they are held equally accountable (passengers with a driving license should take their shoes off so that they are not deemed equipped to drive). 


The driver can have their license suspended for up to 3 years, a prison sentence of up to 2 years and a fine of up to 4500 euros. In some cases drivers can be allowed to drive during this period, but only for professional reasons. In some cases the license will be cancelled and the driver will be required to take a new driving test. Sometimes the driver can be banned from driving certain classifications of vehicles for up to 5 year


Speed Limits in France

Speed limits vary depending on where you are driving in France. The speed is measured in kilometers per hour (km/h), which might be a bit confusing for someone who's not used to the metric system. Speed limits in France are:

  • Urban areas: 50 km/h (31 mph)

  • Open roads: 90 km/h (55 mph)

  • Dual carriage ways: 110 km/h (68 mph)

  • Motorways or Expressways: 130 km/h (80 mph)

Speed limits also vary depending upon the weather. Pay attention to speed limit signs.

The laws are stricter for people who've had their licenses for shorter periods of time, for example, a person who has held a license for less than one year must always follow the speed limit of 90km/h.

More and more roads in France have fixed speed cameras, so keep an eye on the national speed limit signs at all times.

Be aware that urban speed limits begin at the town or city sign, and in France, anyone caught travelling at more than 25km/h above the speed limit can have their license confiscated on the spot.






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