The traffic rules in France are sometimes slightly different than in your home country. We list the most important general rules for you.
France traffic rules in general
Some important general traffic rules are mentioned here, including a number of traffic regulations that may deviate from your home country.
France traffic rules – Drive safely
- In France, the general rule is that the driver of a vehicle must always be able to perform the actions required to drive safely.
- Based on this rule, you as a driver can be fined if, for example, you eat or drink something while driving, smoke a cigarette, apply make-up, take something out of the glovebox or wear unsafe footwear (such as flip-flops).
France traffic rules – Alcohol and driving
- The maximum permitted blood alcohol content is 0.5 per mille (which corresponds to 0.25 milligrams of alcohol per liter of exhaled air).
- For drivers who have their driving license for less than three years, a limit of 0.2 per mille applies.
- Traces of drugs in the blood are not allowed.
France traffic rules – Mobile Phone
- It is forbidden for drivers of all vehicles (including cyclists) to hold a mobile phone while driving. Note: Even if the vehicle is stationary, for example in a traffic jam or a red traffic light, the driver may not hold a mobile phone. The phone may not be within the driver’s field of vision while driving.
- Only hands-free calling in the car via a car kit is permitted (provided it is a car kit without headphones or earphones). However, drivers can still receive a fine if they are noticeably distracted by hands-free calling while driving.
France traffic rules – Equipment with a screen
- No equipment with a screen, such as a smartphone, tablet or DVD player, may be present within the driver’s field of vision while driving.
- The use of navigation equipment in the car is permitted. Navigation via a smartphone is also allowed, but in that case the smartphone must be placed in a holder and the screen of the smartphone must not be touched or used during reading to read messages. Calling with the smartphone may only be hands-free via a car kit. Please note: the use of a smartphone to navigate is not recommended, unless a mode can be enabled on the smartphone in which the display of messages (mail, SMS, whatsapp, etc.) is blocked during navigation.
- Drivers are not allowed to operate equipment while driving. Also a navigation device, or a smartphone that is used for navigation, may only be touched and set by the driver when the vehicle is parked in a safe place.
France traffic rules – Headphones or earphones
- The use of headphones or earphones (even those of the car kit) for calling or listening to music, for example, is prohibited. This applies to all drivers, including cyclists. Also the use of only one earpiece or headphones that covers only one ear is forbidden.
France traffic rules – Basic traffic rules
- You have to drive on the right and overtake on the left.
France traffic rules – Priority
- At a junction, drivers of right take precedence, unless otherwise indicated.
- In France it is not indicated with shark teeth, but with a line of thick blocks that drivers should give priority to drivers on a crossing. Often these blocks are preceded by a large inverted triangle on the road surface. In addition, a triangular traffic sign is usually used with the text Cédez le passage below (Give priority).
- Trams always have priority.
- As in most countries, drivers must give priority to drivers on the through lane on the main lane. Please note: If you are driving on the ring road around Paris (Périphérique), you should give priority to drivers from the right who enter the ring road from the driveways.
France traffic rules – Pass
- On narrow mountain roads, uphill traffic has priority over downhill traffic. If necessary, the easiest manoeuvrable vehicle has to move for less agile vehicles.
France traffic rules – Roundabout
- Drivers on a roundabout have priority if the roundabout is marked with the triangular warning sign Roundabout, and/or if the sign Vous n’avez pas la priorité (You have no priority) is displayed. If these signs are missing, drivers who approach the roundabout have priority.
France traffic rules – To overtake
- Drivers must overtake moving trams on the right, unless there is insufficient space on the right. On one-way roads, the tram may also be overtaken on the left.
- Drivers are not allowed to pass trams where passengers board and disembark.
- When passing a cyclist, cars riding within a city area must be kept at least 1 m, and outside the city area at least 1.5 m away from the cyclist.
France traffic rules – Standing still
- There is an absolute stopping ban (and parking ban) along the two main traffic axes of Paris: the east-west axis along
the quays on the left bank of the Seine and the Quai de la Mégisserie and the north-south axis along the Avenue du Général Leclerc, a part of Boulevard St-Michel, Rue de Rivoli, Boulevards de Sébastopol, Strasbourg and Barbès and d’Ornano, Rue Lafayette and Avenue Jean Jaurès.
France traffic rules – Parking
- It is forbidden to park on the left side of the road (against the direction of traffic), also in parking spaces on the left. You can park on the left side of a street with one-way traffic though.
- It is forbidden to park in front of hospitals, police stations, post offices, red and white or red marking of the pavement and next to a broken yellow line at the edge of the road.
- If drivers park dangerously (for example if they park at a zebra crossing or are parked twice), their driving license can be taken.
- In Paris and a few other large cities, there is a time limit at some parking places. This means that parked vehicles can only remain in the same place for a limited period of time.
- Parking disks for parking in a zone bleu are available at the police, tourist offices and some shops.
France traffic rules – Emergency lights
- Drivers are obliged to use emergency lights to warn other road users if they suddenly have to slow down considerably. Drivers must also have their hazard lights flash when approaching a traffic jam and when they are in a traffic jam, as long as their vehicle is the last in the queue.
France traffic rules – Sound signals
- The use of the horn is prohibited within city areas, except in the case of direct danger.
- Outside the city area, the horn may only be used to give a warning signal in situations where this is absolutely necessary. Between sundown and dawn, drivers should flash their lights in such situations.
France traffic rules – Lanes and stripes on the road
- Continuous streaks must absolutely not be passed and may not even be hit with the wheels.
France traffic rules – Hitchhiking
- It is forbidden to hike along motorways, along four-lane roads and along roads without footpaths.
France traffic rules – Car crash or accident
- In the event of a breakdown or an accident, the driver must put on a safety vest before he leaves the vehicle.
- In the event of a breakdown or an accident, the driver must also switch on the hazard warning lights and place a warning triangle at least 30 m behind the vehicle so that it is visible from a distance of 100 m.
- It is forbidden and also very dangerous to walk on the autoroute (highway). A driver therefore does not have to place a warning triangle in case of breakdown or an accident on the autoroute. The driver must activate the hazard lights and put on a safety vest. All passengers then get out as soon as possible on the safe side of the car and wait for help behind the guardrail.
- In the event of an accident, the driver is obliged to disclose his or her identity to the other parties involved.
- In the event of an accident that has led to personal injury, the driver is obliged to call the police.
France traffic rules – Instruction from the police
At intersections where agents control traffic, drivers must handle the left turn to the agent unless the agent indicates otherwise.
France traffic rules car
France traffic rules car
- It is only mandatory to carry light when vision is seriously impeded.
- The use of low beam is mandatory in tunnels.
- In France it is advisable to use low beam or daytime running lights during the day.
- Children under 10 years of age must be transported in an appropriate and approved child seat or on an approved and appropriate booster seat with a height-adjustable seat belt.
- Children under 10 years of age may not be transported on the front seat unless:
- they are transported with their backs forward in a suitable child seat and the airbag is switched off;
- the car does not have a back seat;
- the rear seat has no seat belts;
- the back seat is already fully occupied with children younger than 10 years old.
- The French legislation does not specify a minimum length for the wearing of ordinary safety belts. However, it is recommended that children who are 10 years old or older, but less than 1.50 m tall, in accordance with the European Directive for the transport of children in the car, are transported in an approved and appropriate child seat or on an approved and appropriate booster seat.
Smoking in the car
- In France, it is forbidden for every occupant of a car or motorhome to smoke in the presence of a child under the age of 18.
- The load must not protrude from the front of the vehicle.
- At the rear of the vehicle the load may protrude no more than 3 m. However, a load that protrudes more than 1 m backwards must be fitted with a reflecting sign. In the dark and in poor visibility, any load that protrudes more than 1 m backwards must also have a red light visible at a distance of 150 m.
- The load may not exceed 2.50 m in width. If the load protrudes laterally by more than 40 cm, it must be provided with a forward-looking white lamp or reflector and a red lamp or reflector shining backwards in the dark or bad.
Dragging a car
- On motorways, towing is prohibited, except for a towing service.
- Towing on other roads is permitted.
- If vehicles or vehicle combinations with a maximum permitted mass of more than 3500 kg or that are longer than 7 meters, drive outside the city area at the same speed, they must maintain a distance of at least 50 m relative to each other.
- The minimum tread depth for tires in France is 1.6 mm, as in many other EU countries.
- Driving with tires with too little tread depth is severely punished in France with a high fine or even imprisonment. If a car driver drives low depth or damaged tires, which means that the vehicle poses a danger to road safety, he is not allowed to continue driving.
Speed limits / Maximum speed
- (A): This lower speed limit applies:
- In case of rain or other precipitation.
- For drivers who have been in possession of their driving license for less than three years.
- (B): Stickers 80, 100 and 110 must be affixed to the rear of the motorhome. These are available at, for example, petrol stations in France.
- (C): For combinations with a permitted maximum mass of more than 12,000 kg, a maximum speed of 60 km / h applies.
- (D): For combinations with a permitted maximum mass of less than 12,000 kg, a maximum speed of 90 km / h applies.
- (E): For roads or road sections without middle separation with two lanes per direction (2X2) a higher maximum speed of 90 km / h applies. In case of rain or other precipitation and for drivers who have been in possession of their driving license for less than three years, here too a maximum speed of 80 km / h applies.
- For all roads: if the visibility is 50 m or less, the maximum speed is 50 km / h.
- The minimum speed on the left lane of motorways is 80 km / h.
- When entering a city, a city name sign with a red border indicates that the maximum speed is 50 km / h. A city name sign with a black border and a red line through the city name, indicates the 50 km /h maximum speed is canceled again.
Reduction of maximum speed per 1-7-2018
- With effect from 1 July 2018, the maximum speed on two-way roads without intermediate separation (routes nationales and routes départementales) has been reduced from 90 to 80 km / h.
- In case of rain and other precipitation and for drivers who have been in possession of their driving license for less than three years, on these roads no lower maximum speed applies. You can always drive a maximum of 80 km / h.
- Exception: on two-way roads without middle separation with two lanes per direction (2X2) a maximum speed of 90 km / h remains, see above at E.
Speed camera signaling
- Owning, transporting and using radar detection equipment is prohibited.
- The transportation and use of equipment with signaling for fixed speed cameras or route checks (such as navigation equipment, telephones, tablets and laptops) is also prohibited. The speed camera signaling function must be switched off on these devices. Motorists are advised to remove all safety camera information from this equipment. Information about danger zones is allowed on a navigation system.
- Recommended in winter conditions. The use of winter tires is not mandatory in France, but it is recommended to use winter tires on roads covered with snow or ice.
- The minimum tread depth for winter tires is 3.5 mm.
- Sometimes the blue sign ‘snow chains compulsory’ is provided with a plate with the text pneus neige admis (winter tires allowed). This means that only snow tires (M + S) may be used for snow instead of snow chains. The winter tires must have a minimum tread depth of 3.5 mm and be mounted on four wheels. Without winter tires it is mandatory to drive with snow chains. We recommend you to use tires with a snowflake symbol.
- Note: in Luxembourg and Germany, driving on winter tires is mandatory in winter conditions.
- Required on board. On many mountain passes the use of snow chains is mandatory. This is indicated by a round, blue sign with a car tire with a snow chain.
- If this blue sign ‘snow chains mandatory’ has a board with the text pneus neige admis (winter tires allowed), the compulsory use of snow chains does not apply when winter tires (M + S) are driven. The winter tires must have a minimum tread depth of 3.5 mm and be mounted on four wheels. Note: if the bottom plate is missing from the blue snow chains, snow chains must also be fitted on winter tires.
- Snow chains may only be used on snowy roads.
- If snow chains are used, the maximum speed is 50 km / h or lower if a lower maximum speed is indicated in a chain operating manual.
- Plastic snow chains are also permitted, provided they meet the legal requirements.
Studded winter tyre
- Permitted in winter period.Stud tires are permitted from Saturday before November 11 until the last Sunday in March on vehicles up to 3500 kg. This period can be adjusted if the weather conditions require it.
- The maximum speed when using studded tires is 90 km / h.
- For French cars with studded tires, a plate or sticker must be affixed to the rear left of the car with the speed limit ’90 ‘on it. No picture or sticker needs to be affixed to foreign cars with studded tires.
France traffic rules caravan and trailer
France traffic rules caravan and trailer
The dimensions and maximums of a caravan and trailer combination are as follows:
- Width combination (excluding mirrors): 2.55 m
- Combination height: No limit
- Trailer length (excluding tiller): 12 m (A)
- Length of the combination: 18 m (A)
- (A): A possible bicycle carrier on the back is included in the length.
- A vehicle towing a caravan must be equipped with rear-view mirrors on both sides that may not protrude more than 20 cm from the total width of the caravan.
- If, outside city areas, vehicles or vehicle combinations that have a maximum permitted mass of more than 3500 kg or are longer than 7 meters, drive in tandem at the same speed, they must maintain a distance of at least 50 m from their predecessor. For example, if you are driving car with a caravan behind a truck, you must keep at least 50 meters away.
- With a vehicle combination (such as a car with a caravan or trailer) that is more than 7 m long, you can only drive on motorways with three or more lanes in one direction on the two rightmost lanes, unless you want to turn left.
- Not only the tires of the towing vehicle, but also the tires of a caravan must have a minimum tread depth of 1.6 mm. Driving on tires with too little tread depth is severely punished in France.
- It is forbidden to spend the night along the road in a caravan. It is allowed to park a few hours in parking places along motorways.
France traffic rules moped
France traffic rules moped
- In France there is no separate definition of a light moped; it falls under the regular mopeds.
- A moped can not go faster than 45 km / h.
- Wearing a helmet is mandatory for the driver and passenger. Note: also light moped riders have to wear a helmet in France.
- The rule that a helmet must be fitted with reflective elements (ECE 22/04) applies only to helmets sold in France. Non-French moped riders therefore do not have to stick reflective stickers on their helmets.
- Since 20 November 2016, moped and light-moped riders and their passengers are obliged to wear gloves. These must be gloves with a CE marking.
- Mopeds and light mopeds must also have low beam during the day.
- Only a passenger may be transported on a moped or light moped if a special seat (duo or buddy seat) is present. Footrests must also be present.
- Children up to 14 years of age may only be transported on a mopeds or light mopeds if they have a suitable and approved helmet, if their feet rest on footrests and if there are handles on which they can hold.
- Children under the age of 5 must be transported in a child seat. The wheels must be protected in such a way that the hands or feet can not get caught between the spokes.
- Mopeds may tow a trailer whose maximum weight, including load, may not exceed half the empty weight of the moped.
Place on the road
- A moped or light moped may not drive on a highway, motorway or roads that are prohibited for slow traffic.
- It is forbidden for moped riders to use bicycle lanes, unless road signs show otherwise.
Driving next to each other
- It is forbidden for moped riders to ride next to each other.
Microcar or moped car in France
- In France, a moped car is officially called quadricycle léger à moteur. More common are the terms voiture sans permis (VSP) or voiturette.
- According to the law, a moped car is the same as a moped. The maximum speed is 45 km / h.
- The minimum age for driving a moped car is 16 years.
- A moped car is allowed to ride on the bike path, unless a ban applies to mopeds (indicated with a prohibition sign).
- A moped car may not be on a highway, motorway or roads that are prohibited for slow traffic.
- Drivers who were born after 1987 need a (moped) driving license.
- If necessary, take a navigation device with you to find alternatives to roads that are forbidden for microcars.
- A moped car must be provided with an car sticker showing the country of origin.
- A retro-reflective safety vest must be present in the vehicle and this must be used in the event of a breakdown.
- Since 1 January 2016, moped and scooter drivers must have a safety vest (they may wear this vest or keep it in a net or suitcase for example). The driver of a moped or light moped is obliged both at night and during the day to wear this safety vest in the event of breakdown or an accident.
France traffic rules bicycle
France traffic rules bicycle
- Note: children under the age of 12 must wear a bicycle helmet. This also applies to children on the back of the bike.
- If you are 18 or older and accompany one or more children on the bicycle younger than 12 years of age, you are obliged to ensure that each of these children is wearing a bicycle helmet.
- Outside of city areas, cyclists and their passengers must wear a safety vest in the dark and in poor visibility.
Lighting and other requirements
- Bikes must be equipped with fixed lamps. For the bicycle, the light must have the color white or yellow and the color red on the back of the bicycle.
- The bike must have a red reflector behind it and yellow or orange reflectors on the pedals.
- The bicycle must also be equipped with properly functioning brakes and a bell.
- Please note: children younger than 12 who are transported at the back of the bicycle must wear a bicycle helmet.
- If you are 18 or older and you are transporting a child younger than 12 years of age, you are obliged to ensure that the child wears a bicycle helmet.
- Children under the age of 5 may only be transported in a child seat in which they are secured with a safety belt.
- It is prohibited to transport people over 14 years as passengers on the bicycle.
- It is permitted to ride with a bicycle to which a trailer is attached.
Cycling and alcohol
- The maximum permitted alcohol content in the blood is 0.5 per mille.
- It is forbidden for cyclists to hold a mobile phone while driving.
- The use of headphones or earphones while cycling is also prohibited.
Driving next to each other
- After sunset it is forbidden to cycle next to each other.
- Cycling is only permitted in the daytime if this does not obstruct the traffic.
Place on the road
- If a mandatory bike path (around blue sign with white bicycle) is present, cyclists must use it.
- If there is no mandatory bicycle path, cyclists may cycle on the road (nationales routes, routes départementales, communale etc. routes) unless a traffic sign indicates that this is prohibited. Cycling is prohibited on car (fast) roads (car routes, voies expresses etc.).
- For an electric bicycle with pedal assistance up to 25 km / h that has a maximum output of 250 watts (VAE, Vélo à Assistance Electrique), the same rules apply as for a regular bicycle. (If the bicycle has a capacity of between 250 watts and 1 kilowatts, the bicycle is considered a moped.)
- Wearing a bicycle helmet is not compulsory, but is advised.
- Electric bicycles (UAEs) should ride on the bike path wherever possible.
- For an electric bicycle with pedal assistance up to 45 km / h (S-Pedelec, Speed Pedelec, UAE rapide) the same rules apply as for a moped.
- The minimum age for a speedpedelec is 14 years and the driver must be in possession of the moped driver’s license.
- The driver is obliged to wear an approved moped helmet (ECE 22.05 standard). As far as is known, wearing a special speedpedelec helmet (NTA 8776: 2016 standard) is not permitted.
- The driver is also required to wear gloves with a CE marking and to take a safety vest with him to put it on both at night and during the day in case of breakdown or accident.
- Speedpedelecs may not ride on the bike path, unless a sign indicates that mopeds are permitted.
- In Paris, at some intersections with traffic lights, a special triangular traffic sign with a bicycle and an arrow on it means that cyclists are allowed to drive through red light in the indicated direction (straight or right), provided they give priority to all other road users (similar to some other (EU) countries where the traffic sign right off for cyclists free).
France traffic rules Motor
France traffic rules motor
- Wearing a helmet is mandatory for both driver and passenger.
- The driver and passenger (s) of a trike or quad must wear a helmet unless their seat is fitted with a safety belt.
- The rule that a helmet must be fitted with reflective elements only applies to helmets sold in France. Non-French motorcyclists therefore do not need to stick reflective stickers on their helmets.
- Since November 20, 2016, motorcyclists and their passengers are required to wear gloves. These must be gloves with a CE marking.
- The use of low beam during the day is mandatory.
- Transporting a passenger is permitted, provided there is a special seat (duo or buddy seat) and footrests.
- Children up to five years of age must be transported in a specially approved child seat with safety belts that can be secured to the motorcycle or sidecar. Children from five years old must be able to rest their feet on footrests. It is not recommended in France to transport children under the age of eight on the motorcycle.
- Motor bikes may tow a trailer, provided it weighs no more than half of the engine.
- It is forbidden to drive in a traffic jam between the rows of stationary or slow-moving cars.
Trial with traffic driving
- Since early 2016, motorcyclists in 11 French provinces are allowed to drive between slow moving and stationary rows of cars in eleven French departments as a test, on roads with at least two lanes in both directions and a maximum speed of at least 70 km / h, provided that there is sufficient space and vehicles in traffic jams do not drive faster than 50 km / h.
- It concerns the following departments: Paris, Hauts-de-Seine, Seine-Saint-Denis, Val-de- Marne, Seine-et-Marne, Yvelines, Essonne, Val-d’Oise, Rhône, Gironde and Bouches- du-Rhône.
- On roads with more than two lanes, slow moving traffic driving is only allowed on the two leftmost lanes.
- Slow moving traffic driving is prohibited in the following cases:
- In the city.
- On roads without central reservation.
- If the motorcyclist drives faster than 50 km / h.
- If the road is completely or partially covered with ice or snow.
Headphones or earphones
- The use of headphones or earphones for mobile calls or listening to music, for example, is prohibited on the motor. Only a communication system that is fully integrated in the helmet is permitted.
- As of 1 January 2016, motorcyclists must have a safety vest with them on the motorcycle (they may wear this vest or keep it in a net or suitcase for example). The driver of an engine is required both at night and during the day to wear this safety vest in the event of breakdown or an accident.
France traffic rules - road signs
France traffic rules – road signs
The traffic signs in France hardly differ from those in many other EU countries.
Car and motorcycle
- Various triangular warning signs, such as those for a traffic jam or work in progress, have a bright yellow instead of white background in France.
- On car routes (motorways) blue signposts with white letters are used. On the other roads white signposts with black letters are used. Routes to important places are indicated by green signposts with white letters. These are alternative routes for the toll roads.
- Sometimes a sign with the maximum speed is not displayed when entering a place, but the place name sign has a red border, which means that the maximum speed is 50 km / h. With a place name sign with a black border and a red line through the city name, this maximum speed requirement is canceled again.
- Important cities, such as Paris and Marseille, are often already indicated hundreds of kilometers in advance.
- On road signs, toll roads are marked with ‘Péage’.
- Traffic-free alternative routes of the French traffic information service Bison Futé, the so-called ‘Itinéaires Bis’, are indicated by green signs with the word ‘Bis’ next to the place name in a yellow box or by (new) yellow signs with black letters and ‘Bis’ ‘with yellow letters in a black box.
- A ban is indicated with a round white sign with a red border and an inverted black ‘U’ where, unlike in some other EU countries, a red line runs through.
- A rounded white sign with a red border and a black arrow pointing to the left or right with a diagonal red line through it means: ‘Forbid left (or right)’.
- A rounded white sign with a red border and a horn with a red diagonal line through it means that it is forbidden to horn.
- A round blue sign with a tire with a snow chain indicates that snow chains are mandatory.
- A round blue sign with a white number on it (for example, 30) indicates the minimum speed.
- Under certain orders or prohibition signs, a board can be placed with a car pulling a caravan. This sign means that the injunction or prohibition sign above applies to vehicles towing a caravan or trailer of more than 250 kg (the sign does not apply to combinations heavier than 3500 kg).
Bike and pedestrian
- A rectangular blue sign with a green track on which a white cyclist and pedestrian are located indicates a green strip reserved for pedestrians and non-motorized traffic.
You may encounter the following traffic indictions when traveling through France:
Allumez vos feux – Light your lights
Attention – Pay attention!
Au pas – Slowly!
Cédez le passage – Give priority
Center ville – Center
Danger, dangereux – Danger, dangerous
Fin de limitation – End of speed limit
Gendarmerie – Police
Gravier, Gravillons – Stone-blow
Stop – Stop
Impasse – Dead-end
Itinéraire bis – Alternative route
Limitation – Speed restriction
Passage interdit – Passage forbidden
Passage protégé – Priority intersection
Péage – Tol
Priorité à droite – Traffic from the right takes precedence
Prudence! – Careful!
Ralentir, ralentissez – Slow ride
Recall – Reminder / repeat (from traffic rule)
Route barrée – Closed roadway
Sens unique One-way traffic
Serrez à droite – Keep right
Suivre – Follow
Tenez fox distances – Keep distance
Toutes directions – Through traffic
Travaux – Work in progress
Virage – Turn
Voie unique – Single-lane traffic
Vous n’avez pas la priorité – You have no priority
Zone bleue – Only parking with parking disc
Zone de rencontre – Residential area with maximum speed 20 km / h
Zone rouge – Stop prohibited
Here you will find more information about France.