Transcript for Episode 16: The Rules of Driving in France

Category: Driving in France


This is join us in France, Episode 16. Hello, I’m Annie. And today I’m happy to introduce David Sargent husband was sitting in parentheses. Hello. Unless this is your first time listening to the show, and in that case, welcome to you. You’re probably wondering, Why is her husband on today, it’s pretty simple. And don’t worry, Elise is just fine. This which is all about the topic we’re discussing today, driving in France, David has a lot to say about that he’s had to get used to driving in France pretty recently. And he even had to take the French driver’s license. So his perspective is different from mine, or at least is because Elise has been driving in France so long, she probably doesn’t even remember what is like to drive in America, I don’t know she ever drives in America, as a matter of fact, anyway. Um, so I learned to drive in France, myself, I even taught driving in France for a while, technically, I’m still, you know, legal to teach driving, although I haven’t done it in decades. And I’m not going to I don’t remember very much about it. And David, he has a, these a bit of a stickler for rules, he likes to notice rules he likes to you know, he sees all the crazy things that French people do. And I have to admit, we do a fair amount of that. So I let him tell you all about that. But today, for the short order of business, I want to encourage you, again, to share the episodes of the show on your favorite social network, or via email, whatever works for you, we provide share buttons at the bottom of each post on the website. So like for instance, if you wanted to share today’s post, you would go to join us in France. com forward slash the numbers 16. And then you find all the share buttons on the bar at the bottom of that page. We’ve got Facebook, Google Plus Pinterest, Reddit, Twitter, stumble upon LinkedIn, Tumblr, pocket, I don’t even know what pocket is. But I’m sure lots of people do. So that is why it’s there. And if you don’t use any social network, you’re not off the hook. Either. We want you to use the email link, so that you can email your friends and tell them about the show. That’s really the only way we have to grow and keep going. So welcome, David. And Shall we talk about driving in France? Sure. Okay, let’s go do it. So the first thing I thought

I would do is reassure you that although Annie rightfully says that I love a lot of rules, I’m not really going to talk much about rules, mostly just kind of talk about things that I think will surprise non French drivers. My experience, obviously is comparing us driving with French driving. And so for people in other countries, the differences might not quite be the same. But hopefully these tips will still be helpful to you. And I thought I’d start by talking about a few misconceptions that I had, and that friends and acquaintances of mine have had have asked me some kind of funny questions about driving in France. A lot of people imagine that driving in France is very chaotic, like, say, in southern Italy, or something like that. And the truth is, it’s not I mean, it’s, it’s, it’s more chaotic than in the US. And it’s a little worse, because the streets are a lot smaller, and the cars are a lot smaller. And so sometimes it seems a little crazy at first, but it’s really not bad. The the drivers are pretty, pretty reasonable, really looking around a lot. The roads are amazing. You know, they’re in great repair unless you’re way out in the country. And so it’s really not something that it’s really not something that can’t be done right and even not taking your life in your own hand.

Yeah, and even northern Italy. at La at least that’s where we throw I drove last. It wasn’t that bad. So even though it is getting better, I think.

So another funny misconception that I’ve heard a lot. I didn’t ever have this one myself, but I’ve heard it a lot is people asked me if the French drive on the left, like in the UK? And the answer to that is absolutely no. in all of Europe, it’s pretty much just in the UK. Yeah, that. Yeah, people drive on the left. Yeah, yeah. So so that’s No, no problem to get used to. You know, people often wonder if if you know, the French being famous, supposedly, for being rude, as has been described in a previous podcast. So does that mean that they’re rude and aggressive drivers? I don’t, I don’t think they’re particularly aggressive. They’re not completely laid back. And they will contact you if they are surprised by something you do. But it’s, you know, they’re not gonna yet beat you up and pointing at you or anything like that. So, no, no, no, no guns. And they do seem a bit undisciplined at times, but they kind of know what they can get away with. And especially, I think, when it comes to parking and things that you need to be careful to not necessarily always follow the local example, because, you know, they might know what they can get away with, which may not be with what you can get away with. That’s true, you know, and, and, and a cop who knows that somebody recognizes a car as being from the neighborhood may give us a little slack that they wouldn’t give to a rental car. Right.

Can they all right, rental cars easily identifiable in France? I we haven’t,

I don’t know. But it wouldn’t be it wouldn’t be a recognized car from the block. It wouldn’t. Oh, you know, True. True. So that’s Marcel’s car over there. So I’m gonna I’m gonna let it slide. Anyway, I would say to not necessarily follow all the bad examples that you see, but but it’s really not too bad. Yeah. And and the roads really are, are very good. They do get especially as you get farther and farther out of town, they do get pretty narrow, pretty windy. Yeah. But, but really, they are in quite good repair. Another thing a lot of people wonder about is, you know, being wine country, does that mean there’s a lot of drinking and driving. And there is some and but it’s a but it’s something that that they’re working very, very hard to control. And yet the the rules have become extremely strict. And the fines very high. And we’ll talk about that later. So no, don’t plan on. You know, if you if you want to go on some wine tasting tour, don’t drive yourself there.

No, yeah, that’s a very good point.

So a few things that you might want to consider when you’re deciding if you want to rent a car for your visit in France. One One thing that’s frustrating for a lot of American drivers, especially is that most cars, even rentals are manual transmissions. All right. So if you’re not used to driving a stick shift. Yeah, your your first trip to France might not be the time to let.

Yeah, yeah, French people have this idea that automatic transmissions are for handicapped people. Now, it’s a totally unfair and incorrect, but that’s who, if you go into a car dealership, they will not offer you they want they want they want suggest a manual, I mean, an automatic transmission, unless they can tell that you need it. They probably don’t even have one on the lot. Probably not. And so rental car agencies probably are better about that. But you will pay more because it’s going to be a bigger car, and you will need to book it in advance and make sure you know, right, there will be a lot fewer options. possibilities. Yeah,

so. So anyway, and the cars do tend to be smaller. Mm hmm. Which is important, because you know, don’t just come and rent a Hummer, because then you’ll never, ever be able to park it anywhere and and have a spouse treat you

don’t even know if you could rent a home over maybe you probably not.

But so you know, embrace the smaller car size, because it will actually work to your advantage later, it’s a lot easier, especially in cities. Also make sure that you’re good at parallel parking most places in France, there are parking lots, especially in in large supermarkets and such but, but parking in residential areas is often. And even in a lot of commercial areas. If it’s smaller stores, instead of a great big store. There’s a lot of parallel parking, and a lot of kind of tight, parallel parking.

And you have to be able to parallel park, both on the right side of the road and the left side of the road, which I would bet most Americans have never tried the crew because there

are a lot of one way roads. And so sometimes the parking is on the left.

Yeah, yep. And

that’s not that’s not very hard parking on the left. If you if you can parallel park on the right, then I think with a few tries, you can get it on the left pretty easily. Because that’s the side you’re you’re on it’s a lot

anyway, in big cities. The bottom line is if you intend on driving constantly, then you’ll be fine in a car. But if you ever want to stop driving and leave the car somewhere that’s more complicated, that’s more complicated and consider that before renting a car, right?

gas is quite a bit more expensive. In France, it can be two to three times as much. Yeah, as in the US, although the cars tend to be more efficient. So it’s not quite as bad as it sounds. But it’s it’s very expensive. In addition, if you’re just going to be going around town, fine. But if you’re going to be traveling distances and taking freeways, most freeways have fairly significant tolls. Yeah. Now the good news is the freeways are fantastic this money is being spent to to keep them up really well. But but they do cost a lot of money. They do cost a fair amount of money. And what I suggest is there’s a website called via Micheline. Oh, yeah. VIAMICA li And it’s very much like, you know, Google Maps or maps or whatever. And it is aware of both gas and toll prices. And so you can put in information about the type of car you’re going to be driving and your distances and it will actually tell you in euros, a good estimate about how much you’ll spend on gas and tolls.

Yeah, it’s pretty close. Yeah, it’s pretty close. Yeah. And Michelin, I think that’s a French company. Yeah. And so they have more information about tiny roads. And I mean, their maps, I don’t like their maps as well. But they do have more local information.

Right. And if you go to VM, instead,, it’s all in English. Good point. So if you do decide to to rent, arrange that rental before you come, you’ll save a lot of money, if you make the arrangement in your home country. It’s also good idea to get an international driving permit. Most countries have have some way to do a transcription, so that so that it will be written in several languages and internationally recognized in the US, you can go to the national automobile Automobile Club, or the American Automobile Association, and it’s like $15. And a pretty quick process. It’s not, it’s not absolutely required. In all cases, no, you can check with the rental agency if they if they require it. But it’s, but it’s not a bad idea to have one, especially if it’s not hard to get. However, even if you have a driver’s license and an international permit, if you’re not 18, then you can’t drive in France, because they can’t get a license until 18. So just because you’re American and 16 and got one it’s not good enough. And in fact, a lot of rental agencies won’t rent to you until you’re 21 or even 25. In some cases. So if you’re young check, yeah, some won’t rent if you’re under 25 cents will between 21 and 25. But they add surcharges. So check on that. And there’s a general recommendation, we feel like, we should discourage people from driving in the big cities, especially Paris, it’s just going to be a lot of grief and a lot of expense. And the public transportation is so good. That you know fighting for finding parking and and some of the struggles with some of the really dense traffic, we just don’t feel like it’s worth it.

Yeah, traffic jams are really bad in and around Paris. Also, in the southeast, if you go to the Riviera is specially in the summer. I mean, it can be an hour to go across a place that should take 10 minutes, just because of the traffic. So if you if you must have a car, then I guess that’s that’s one thing. But if it’s just that it’s more comfortable for you that you don’t really want to spend the time to figure out the public transportation. Really, you’re going to save yourself a lot of grief if you’re in a big city, if you don’t have a car. And if you are going to have a car, you know, if you’re going to be doing some traveling across the country, a car can be a great way to go.

But if you are going to have some stops in big cities, make sure that your hotels there provide parking, it’ll probably be an extra charge. But but that will simplify your life tremendously and will almost certainly be a lot less expensive than trying to find parking on your own.

Yeah. Very good point.

Okay, so just before I dig in a few terms that that I thought were worth knowing. For signs we certainly don’t think you need to speak French to be able to drive in France. But a lot of cars are diesel, which doesn’t seem like it would be a big deal except that the word for diesel gasoline doesn’t look anything like diesel. It’s occasionally marked like diesel, but usually it’s marked guzzle JSO le or Goswami. JSOIL will put some of these terms on the show notes. Yeah, most. And then other gas. Of course, there’s no longer any leaded gas in France. There hasn’t been for a long, long time. But the unleaded gas is called some blown SNS space PLOMB. And the octane here is listed as 95 or 98. And I know that in some places, it would actually be 85 and 88. It’s a different calculation. Yeah, yes. That’s the correspondence. Yeah. Another common one. PPEAG is a toll, huh? Dave? Yes, young DEVIATION is a detour. And hopefully, during, you know, travel months, travel times, there shouldn’t be too much that going on?

Oh, it’s the opposite. French, French roads get a lot of maintenance maintenance done during the summer.

Ah, because there isn’t as much regular.

Exactly. And so in the summer, you’re even more likely to find deviations and blockages and whatever else they’re going to come up with, than the rest of the year. So yeah, no, that’s a problem.

Okay. And then and then another term that you’ll see a lot when you park if you if you parallel park someplace in a in a city, even a small city, the word on the ground can be PLPAYANT, which means that you have to pay for the parking and you have to go find a meter. We’ll talk about that later. Yeah, yeah. But the main reason that I wouldn’t worry about being able to read every single sign is that most of the signs are little pictures, and they’re reasonably intuitive. I don’t have any intention of you know, doing a long description of a lot of signs and rules and stuff like that. But thank

goodness, yes.

But I do strongly recommend that you get or bring a good GPS, and just let it Yeah, lead your ground. Yeah. And when I say GPS, I actually mean, not a smartphone. Because my experience is that a smartphone can be great, you know, for small stuff, and especially for areas that you’re familiar with. But quite often the smartphones don’t pick up the GPS signals as reliably as a, you know, an actual GPS device that does nothing but that Yeah, and in the cities, especially, that can be a problem you get between a couple buildings. And the GPS signals get really weak and and even a normal GPS can sometimes get a little confused, but the phones even more so. And of course, most of the phones rely on internet to get the map Exactly. And you may or may not have a good plan, or you may or may not have good reception. And yeah,

the problem with the phone is well, first of all, you probably don’t have a phone plan while in France. And if even if you do as soon as you get out into the boonies get Guess what? Even French people get poor reception in the boonies. Right. So right, it’s very possible

to get a prepaid plan so that you can get some data and surf the internet and get your email and that kind of thing. But I really don’t recommend it for for serious touring, because you will you will end up in areas if the time you need it the most will be when it when it somehow can’t find a good cell tower. Yeah. And and find out what it needs. Yeah, but yeah, so I would really get, you know, a good a good GPS with, with local maps on it that are that are recently updated.

And you can run around, yeah, you can either update your own GPS that you bring from home, or you can rent one with a car. Right?

Right. But But I strongly encourage that, because navigation in France is very different. From the US, I don’t know about other places, but they have a concept of direction, you’ll you’ll drive around France, and you’ll just see signs everywhere telling you that various cities are in this direction, and not necessarily even tell you how far away they are. I mean, you know, so sometimes especially on a freeway, you’ll see a sign that says, you know, Denver is 30 miles away or something like that, but but here at all kinds of intersections and roundabouts, there will just be little signs that say Paris is this way in Bordeaux is that way and and there’s very much this idea of direction. And a lot of people drive without a map. Because they’ll just say, How do I get there and they’ll say, well, you follow, you know, you follow the direction to this bigger city. And then when you get closer, you’ll be following the direction to the smaller city and then the direction to this village. And then and then we’re right behind the bakery, or the train station or whatever. A lot of people go completely on those kinds of, of tips. And it works great when you’re used to thinking that way. But when you’re looking for a very precise address, it’s harder because that that last, that last mile is the trickiest part, a lot of addresses are not well displayed, a lot of street names are not well marked, you know, yeah, I can see that I can go, you know, right to go to this town or left to go to that town. But what’s the name of the street I’m on? And what’s the number of that building over there so that I can figure out right where the houses that I need a GPS just takes care of that for

you. Right. And if you’re going to stay at a rural GT, or bed and breakfast or something like that, asked for an actual address. Now, they may not be able to provide you with an actual address, because there are plenty of places that just go by UD, whatever, which is just kind of a place name. Yeah, it’s like a placeholder. And so the person who’s delivering the mail every day of his life in that area knows exactly where that is. But a GPS doesn’t

actually nowadays, a lot of GPS is do. Okay, so that helps, you can often put in this this place name and UD is something that we ought to add to our list terms on the on the site. That’s

true. That’s true. It’ll be on the show notes.

Yeah. And so. So that’s a possibility. The other thing is, I’ve noticed more and more rural places on their websites are actually putting GPS coordinates, right. So you can

use they know people use GPS, no GPS, us

and they and they know that if this wasn’t the case, five years ago, people would say, Well, no, I don’t I don’t have a real address, I can just tell you how to get there. And when they say that, oh, you’re in trouble, because it means that it’s going to be like, turn right after the fifth cow kind of thing. I mean, it’s gonna be something weird. So yeah, and and what David was bringing up the general directions, like, you could be in Paris, and people will tell you, oh, to go to this town, 20 kilometres away go in the direction of Bordeaux. And you like,

which is hours away? Yeah. And you’re not going to go anywhere near Bordeaux. Right. But that’s just the direction you start out because there be signs pointing to Bordeaux. And then once you get far enough, then there will be signs pointing to the smaller place close by,

right. And and we don’t ever use north, south, east and west that will except for the train stations in Paris, which kind of some of them do that. So who knows?

So, so yes, I strongly recommend the GPS, the navigation is very different way of thinking about things. And the GPS just solves most of those problems. And unless you’re in a really rural area, you’ll you’ll get an address. And even in the rural areas, usually they’ll at least be able to give you a street name. And in fact, a lot of times you’ll find on the GPS, you go to the street name. And then you’re about to put in a number and it says oh, I don’t know the numbers on that street. It’s a smart Street. Yeah, my mind. My tom tom will just say anywhere. And that’s my only option.

Yeah, anyway, yeah, yeah. Yeah.

So and don’t worry about that, because that means it’s, you know, you’re on the right Street, you’re gonna you’re gonna find it. Mm hmm. So, a good investment one One thing, though, so I wouldn’t spend a lot of time worrying about all the directions signs, but and those are kind of white signs with a little, you know, arrow on one end. But the bigger signs that are like four entrances to freeways and such have an interesting color code. So I mentioned that the the one, there’s a white background with black lettering, and the arrow for for the general direction, then there are other signs that will be green backgrounds, and other signs, still, that will be blue backgrounds. And the difference there is is important, the white ones are kind of the slowest way of getting there, there’s a little smaller road that’s local, the green is a little bit bigger. So like, if you had two signs, one saying, you know, this way is white, and this way is green, the green is going to be bigger streets fewer, you know, avoiding the middle of downtown, and then blue is actually going to take you off to some kind of freeway. In many cases, that means toll. But not not always, especially if it’s like the ring around the city. You know, that’s a big railway. That’s generally a freeway with no tolls. But once you start taking off towards a farther away city, right, have to stop it right.

And this is one of those French idiosyncrasies the white signs have to do with the white, green and blue signs have to do with who maintains the road. So the white science, these are roads that are maintained by department, all governments, I guess,

very like the counties, yeah.

And then the green ones are a national roads. So they’re a little bit bigger, and they’re maintained by some national budget. And the blue ones are maintained by a freeway company, which is sometimes the government’s sometimes a private company, sometimes some about it depends on where you are. So it’s, it’s all pretty complicated. But do remember that white is generally the smallest roads. And those usually start with a D letter. And then the green ones are medium sized roads, they start with and then and then a number. And the three ways are either a for auto routes, or E for European,

right and there. But those names and numbers of roads are often not there. You know, sometimes sometimes they’ll tell you the name, sometimes they’ll tell you the name. Sometimes they won’t. Yeah, so don’t don’t count on Don’t count on names. When you’re, when your GPS tells you that you should be on this road, or that you’re going to turn on to that road, don’t be alarmed if you don’t see a sign for it. Because they it’s not like in the US where every practically every intersection shows the name of both streets. Yeah, no, there are there are street name signs, but not not everywhere. Yeah. And okay, but that’s enough. That’s enough about navigation. Yep. So speed limits are trickier in France than elsewhere that I’ve been. They seem to have a system where they’re trying to avoid having too many signs, there are a number of rules. I won’t bore you with the details. But there are a number of rules that seem to be to avoid dating a lot of signs. Well, even if you don’t drive in France, if you just walk in France, you’ll see that there are an insane number of signs. If that was their goal, it didn’t work. But there are kind of a lot of implied rules in France. And, and so you need to know what they are because they do matter, especially when it comes to speed. So speed on the freeways is 130 kilometers an hour, which is about 80 miles an hour, unless it’s raining, and then it drops to 110. So about 68 miles an hour. If it’s not a freeway, though, but it’s a divided highway, it has an island between the two directions, then it’s usually 110. If it’s a main road outside of town, without an island, then it’s 92, about 55 miles an hour. And in town, it’s 50, or about 31 miles per hour now. So whenever you go into a town, and you’ll see a little white sign with a red border and the name of the town in it, whenever you go into a town, one of the things that’s telling you is where you are, but one of the other things that’s telling you is you now have to drive like you’re in the city and not out of the city. So the speed limit just changed from 90 to 50. And there is almost never a sign that says 50. Right at that point, right? Occasionally there is, but it’s very rare. And so and so then suddenly, you’re 40 above the speed limit,

right. And sometimes those small villages, they put their entry sign because that’s where geographically the entrance to the city is. Sometimes it’s like two kilometers away from anything that looks like a town to you, because it’s still farms and whatever. But as soon as you see this sign that states the name of the town, you’re in a 50 kilometers per hour zone. So that’s 31 miles per hour. And guess what the cops really like to see it to set speed traps in those areas, because they know they didn’t catch a lot of speeders,

right. Because even French people fall for that. I mean, you’re going along at 90, you’re perfectly happy and and you’re on this nice straight road and there aren’t even any houses yet. I don’t know that they actually place that there because of a geographical boundary or not. But that is where they’ve decided, yeah, that the driving rule changes. Yeah. And so you have various rules, you’re also not supposed to honk when you’re inside of a city limit like that, unless it’s an absolute emergency, you will get honked at, don’t worry, friends, people, and it won’t necessarily be an emergency. But but don’t don’t go crazy. So, exceptions are marked. Sometimes you can go faster like on one of these if you’re coming into a city limit. But it is a long road without a lot of houses, then sometimes they’ll put up a sign that says you can go 70 Yeah, for example. Yeah, the funny thing that they do at the end, or there can be slower times and they’re going to be you know, school crossings and stuff. And so the drop down to 30. The funny thing that they do is at the end of these areas at the end of these zones, where you’re going a different speed, instead of putting up a sign that says you can go 50. Now, they’ll put up a sign with with the 70, or the 30 in it, and a slash through it that says you’re not allowed to go 70 anymore, you’re not allowed to go 30 anymore. And you have to know that means I go back to 50 Yes, or out in the country. Maybe they’ve slowed you down to seven because it’s a bunch of curves. Mm hmm. And now you can go back to 90. Right? So, yeah, theory, they saved themselves creating a bunch of signs about going, you know, 5091 10 and 130. But you’ll see there are plenty, plenty, plenty of signs, but just know that, you know, the slash means you don’t go that speed anymore, you go back to whatever the regular speed was. So again, in in a city or village limits, it’s 50. outside of the city, if there’s no Island, it’s 90. If there is an island 110. And if you’re actually on a freeway, then then it’s 130 unless it’s raining, and then it’s 110. Yep. And I think on the divided highways, the 110 goes down to 100. I hadn’t written that down. But I think I think also

I don’t remember a little bit.

Anyway, be careful. Be careful in the rain. One of the reasons that I go into such detail about these speed limits is that there are a lot of speed traps, and there. And by being a tourist you don’t necessarily get out of paying the ticket. If they if the clock you going fast. And there is very little wiggle room. If you’re supposed to go 50 you can you’ll probably get a ticket even at 5253 54. Yeah, there’s a little wiggle room, but not much. And there’s a little wiggle room in the car, your car. If you’ve rented a French car, if it says you’re going 50 you’re probably not going quite 50, right. And you’re probably going 4647 and then they’re probably not going to give you a ticket until you’ve gotten 5152 53. But it’s not like I remember where I was in the US. Everyone knew that you could go a good 10 miles an hour over the limit, which would be 16 kilometers over the limit here. Don’t be completely that is not the case here. And and they will and if they get a photo of your car, they will send the bill to your rental company who will pass it along to you. Yeah. And so.

And by speed traps we have in France in the last 10 years, maybe longer. I’m not sure. We’ve had stationary speed. We don’t have radar ups. Yeah, cops Exactly. And so automatic

automatic cameras that just take your picture when you go by too fast,

right. And this is true of Italy, of Spain of England of every place I’ve driven in Europe. So it’s not it’s hardly just French. And we also now have mobile cars that are also speed traps. So the cops have a car that’s just driving is unidentified unmarked is just driving along and it’s able to take photos of speeders both be in front of it or BN behind it. So really, people are needing to slow down because we lose points here we have a point system. And if you get caught speeding of three, three times a year, that’s it, your license is gone. So his revoked. So people, French people used to drive extremely aggressively. It’s not the case so much anymore because of this point system. And as somebody who learned how to drive in France, as a youngster, I remember really dangerous driving from older drivers especially, they were just insane. They drove like this was like some Speedway and you know, Formula One race track. You hardly ever see that.

And and the good news is they have they have just drastically reduced the number of deaths, fatalities,

fatalities, yeah, the number of accidents is not really going down. But the number of fatalities are going down going down drastically in France. As a result, and and at the same time the number of cars are going up, right, it’s going up. And so there’s there’s, it’s great progress, it’s worth saving a lot. As far as I’m concerned. It’s great news. Yeah, and the other thing that they’ve done in recent years in France is radars at red lights at red lights inside of the cities. Now they don’t are not identified at all. But what happens is, and my dear husband got caught guilty. If you, if you go through an intersection at Orange, on or at the orange light, and you move all the way across the intersection, it will actually take two photos once when you when once when it’s orange, or red. And then it if it caught catches you in violation at two points in the intersection, you’ve you’ve got to take it

right actually, actually, I think a little bit better way to explain that is that there’s a line right where the light is right where you’re supposed to stop, there’s a line, there’s a sensor, they call it a radar, which is funny because it has nothing to do with radar, there’s actually a metal strip in the road, right at the point where you’re supposed to stop at the intersection, and another one about three meters ahead. And when the light turns red, if either one of those metal strips, consents a lot of metal about it, then it’ll take a picture from behind. And so and and you have to have two pictures taken, you have to get caught both at the line of the intersection and three meters into the intersection while the light is red. So if the light is yellow, if you’re going through a yellow and the very back of your car gets through to the intersection before it goes red, so that you only trip up the three meter one, you’re fine. Or if you happen to pull up a little too far and stop just a little too far and set the one off. But you stopped then you’re fine. But But if they catch you when the light is red, if they catch you over both of those lines, then you have like a 90 year old ticket. Yeah. And and like she said, they’re not marked. They’re never marked speed, the kind of photo cops used to often be marked the fixed ones. They’re taking down a lot of those signs. And they’re also putting up new ones without signs. And there’s more mobile stuff. There’s always been some mobile stuff you’d see the the cops with binoculars and, and stuff off to the side of the road. But yeah, and now they’re they’re putting them into the cars like it. So they’re they’re very serious about this. And like I said that from, from everything I’ve read, those tickets will be forwarded to your rental company who will be happy to charge

Yeah. Now there’s something that happens in Europe, that which is a problem, and I think it’ll get fixed soon is. For instance, if I drive my French car in Spain, I know that I can get caught that Spain and France have an agreement, and that if I get tripped by one of those speed traps. In Spain, they will just forward the ticket to France, and vice versa. But there’s some countries in Europe that don’t have these kinds of reciprocal agreements yet. And so you may have a German driver who knows right very well that he’s not going to get caught by any of the speed traps, who is not slowing down at known. Where there’s a radar. Yeah, yeah. And so that can be a little bit dangerous because all the Frenchies are slowing way down, because they know there’s going to be a radar. And the foreigners either don’t know or don’t care and try to go as fast as they can. So more and more the European regulations are handling this, but it’s not perfect yet.

Right. And that’s actually pretty new. Even the the agreements between Spain and France only a year. Cool.

Yeah, yeah.

Yeah. Now, with regard to speed, another thing so a lot of americans i know think they can go 10 over 10 miles over the speed limit without a problem. And also generally in the US, you can get away with some speeding if you’re actively passing on the freeway. And that also is not the case here. Right? If you pass, it’s because the person in front of you is not going the speed limit, and you want to go the speed limit. And there are plenty of people on the freeway who do not go 130 Yeah, you know, that’d be they’re not comfortable at that speed, or they’re saving fuel or whatever. I mean, so it’s not like, it’s not like everybody’s going 130 Plus, a lot of people are going more like 110 Yeah. And so if you want to pass them fine, that’s absolutely You’re right. But you can’t go 140 to pass. Right. And and the fact that you were passing is not an appeal for for a speeding ticket at all correct. Also, I mentioned that the speed limits can go down in the rain. And the newer radars apparently have a sensor. So if the ground is wet, they will start taking pictures at 110.

Yes, and the newer radars also have sensors for bigger vehicles. So as you it’s the same in the US, a big semi trailer is not I suppose. And I don’t know, I not supposed to go the same speed as you know, regular cars. That’s right. And those speed radars now, they know the difference between a massive truck and a car. And so if you have, if you have a massive truck going at where you think you should, you could be going 90, that’s why because they know there’s there’s a speed trap, and they’re going to get caught at if they go 90 like a car, they’re going to get caught.

Right? Right? Yes, they have, they have different speed limits. That’s another reason you might want to pass. And those vehicles will actually have little stickers on the back of them that kind of look like the the speed limit signs that show you know what speeds they can go and it’ll be like the regular speed and the rain speed. And and so you’ll know they’re not just having a hard time going the speed limit. They’re not allowed. Yep. Okay, and then when you’re in the city, they’re they’re pretty aggressive about you think that all they care about is the really fast stuff on the freeway. But no, they’re they’re actually pretty intense about maintaining the 50 kilometer an hour limit inside the city because most traffic fatalities or pedestrians, yeah. And, and bicycle. And so they and for a long time in France, a long, long time, the speed limit in cities was 6050. And they lowered it precisely because they realized that up to 50, pedestrians do a lot better than up to 60. So and so what they’ll do is not only might there be radars in town, but there will be all kinds of obstacles to make your life difficult so that you can’t go too fast. And there will be lots of speed bumps, and there will be lots of chicanes where they are they kind of put an artificial curve. Yeah, in the road, so that you just have to slow down.

And some of these events are wicked. And yes, just send you fly. Yes. So slow down,

especially because, you know, in the west of the US where I was anyway, speed bumps were usually just bumps in the blacktop. They were just asking, yeah,

just a tiny, gentle little pop up, pop up.

Right here. They’ll often be like, these brick things that go up quite a bit and angles. hit a brick wall. Yeah, don’t don’t don’t do it fast. Don’t do it fast.

And if you towing anything for the love of Pete, slow down, oh, the we get a lot of European travelers who are towing, whatever, and they don’t necessarily notice slow down problem. So don’t plan

on on being a speed demon in France, there will be people speeding. I’m not saying nobody in France speeds, you will get passed by people who are clearly breaking the speed limits.

Probably Germans,

but well, and even French people, French people who are pretty sure that there’s not a speed trap there, but you won’t know. Yeah, right. Right. And, and so be careful. Okay, there are a few unexpected rules and customs that I consider kind of gotchas for, at least for Americans, for everyone else, I don’t know. But the biggie for non Europeans, I think is called right hand priority. And it’s a strange rule. Again, I think this might go back back to a time when they were just trying to, you know, just have some simple rules not need a lot of signs, or maybe even a custom from before they had signs where if you’re driving down the road, and and and another road comes up to your right. If they don’t have a stop sign or a yield sign, you have to yield to them. And so it’s a it’s a strange rule, because it’s a lack of a sign, there’s usually not a sign to warn you that you’re supposed to give priority to them, you know, because if you come up to a normal intersection, you might have a yield sign or a stop sign. But if you’re just going along, and you’re on the bigger road, usually and a smaller road is coming up to your right, you’re supposed to let them on. Now, French people missed this sometimes, too, right? Yeah, this is a really easy, I mean, it’s just kind of a confusing thing. And so anybody coming from the right, should know, to watch, I mean, because there’s no guarantee that even a local is always going to remember to stop, in fact, correct as we as we try to pull out from our house to get onto the main road. In theory, it’s a right hand priority. And people forget it all the time. Although part of the problem is it’s a little bit blind. When people are parked along there, sometimes people don’t even see that there’s a road. But so so it’s not an absolute, you know, don’t don’t lose a lot of sleep about this. Because you know, people are going to come up and see that you didn’t slow down and maybe Hong Kong illegally. But then, and it’s probably not the end of the world, people shouldn’t jump out in front of you in a dangerous manner, because they should know better. But if you see somebody coming out at the right, and you think, what in the world, is this person crazy? No, he’s not crazy. He’s actually in the right, yeah. And you should slow down for him. Now it can, I found that it was very tricky to figure out if somebody had a stop or a yield sign at first, because, as you’ll see, there are lots of signs and I could tell you how to sign. But because it was turned towards him, not towards me, I couldn’t always tell if it was a stop or a yield. There’s another clue that’s really easy. And that is when you come up to a stop sign in France, there’s a solid line, a solid white line painted on the road. And if it’s a yield sign, then it’s a dotted line. And so as you’re going along, you can very quickly see if there’s a solid or dotted line. And in that case, you just absolutely keep going. Right? Right. If there’s if there’s not a solid or dotted line, and there’s somebody coming up, then you really should let that person go. Like I said, if you forget, and if somebody looks at you, and whatever it is not the end of the world, but don’t have a heart attack, because all these people seem to be jumping out in front of you randomly. It’s not randomly, it’s just, it’s just different.

Yeah, and and nowadays, they’ve put more and more yield signs. But there are places where they don’t want to put a yield sign because it slows people down. That’s the reality of it is when when there’s a right hand side priority you have and you know it, you’re a local, you have to slow down to make sure you you have a time, you know, you have enough time to look. And that’s why they don’t want to put a you

well, and in addition, if if the road is too big, if the one road is too big, and the right hand road is too small, then if if there isn’t something like a light or a roundabout or or something for the big road, then the people coming out on the small road can have a very hard time turning. Yeah. And so it also it’s also kind of a cheap alternative to a light or, or a roundabout for a small street that doesn’t really need something that big, but that otherwise would never get out of there.

Now where does get complicated is that there are a few places in France. Where Okay, there, I’m sure you’re going to talk about roundabout

at some point.

Yes. Okay. So so we’ll, I’ll just mention this briefly. But there are still roundabouts in France that work on the right hand side priority rules, and those are extremely confusing to foreigners, especially notably, the, in Paris, liberals Romandie, to what’s called lightly Twilight well lit Wailea. It’s around the Arc de Triomphe. So if you decided to, I’m going to rent a car and I want to drive the show on ZDZ and around the Arc de Triomphe. Well, guess what, that’s the right hand side priority roundabout, and probably most foreigners have no idea what’s going on. So they’ll spook you a little bit. And actually, I’ve known foreigners who take that round about just for the rush of it, because it really is a rush, you have 10, lines of traffic, merging and all trying to yield to the right. And it’s very strange, right. And so what

this means if you’re having if you’re not used to roundabouts, and having a hard time picturing this, you’ve got like six lanes of in the circle itself, or more, and several entrances coming in, you know, and the people inside the circle have to yield to the people coming into the circle. And instead of the people coming into the circle waiting until there’s a space for them, the people coming in just go. And the people who are already inside are supposed to yield to them by this right hand priority, right? But

then as soon as you’re in the circle, your your yourself are supposed to yield to people come from to everyone else. So it’s it’s really bizarre. I’m sure you can find videos on YouTube, this works. But it’s it’s just one more reason to not drive in Paris. And those are getting pretty rare, all of our friends, but there’s still places where you see them where you know, the mayor didn’t want to pay for the renovation of the roundabout and roundabouts been there 100 years and, you know, live with it. Right?

Right. And again, don’t don’t lose a lot of sleep over it. And even if you make a mistake, even French people make mistakes on these things sometimes because it is a little confusing at times. Yeah. But so so it’s not a big deal. But just so that you know why things are happening and that you don’t think that people are just being completely nuts. Whereas in many cases, they’re just kind of insisting on their right. Mm hmm. So another thing to watch out for real gotcha to watch out for is that once you’re outside of cities, an awful lot of roads have ditches on one, if not both sides of them, you know, to take away water if you know so that the rainfall doesn’t lead to hydro planning, that kind of thing. And a lot of those ditches are not covered. But they can get quite overrun with grass,

right. And now actually, I was driving around the countryside last Saturday, and I took some pictures. From a distance, it looks like it’s just green grass. But if you pull over, there’s a freaking hole where it’s it’s the ditch. Yep. And I’ve known people who’ve tried to pull off on the side of the road in a in a rural area and fell into them in the car car into the ditch. Now, they usually don’t hurt themselves, because they’re going at slow speeds at that point or whatever. But it’s really embarrassing. And you might damage your car pretty badly if you fall into a ditch or even non American, it happened to me he had been driving in France for a long time.

I know a French guy who did it. Yeah, it happened in his case, part of the problem was it was in the mountains in the winter. And so it was actually the snow, not the not the grass. But you need to be very careful pulling off of a small country road, because there’s unless you can really see what’s going on or see that there’s some gravel or something like that. Yeah, because it could very well be a ditch. Yeah. Another thing that’s a little weird, and this changes some from area to area anyway. So depending on where you’re from, it might not be so strange. But most of the places I drove would would put, you know, if I was coming up to an intersection, the light would often be suspended in the middle of the intersection or kind of on the other end of the intersection so that I can see it well in advance. Well, France has such bizarre little roads and strangely shaped intersections with roads coming together at all kinds of different angles, that they don’t do that, they they actually put the light on a pole on the sidewalk to the right, of where you are, right. And in fact, it’s so close that there’s usually a special second light or lower on the pole, so that the first person who stops there, you can’t see the light overhead because of your car. And so you see one at about your eye level off to the right, and then everybody behind you is looking at the bigger one up above. But it’s not clear out across the intersection, we’re in the middle of the intersection suspended, it’s on a pole to the right. And sometimes on a big intersection, there will be a second one to the left, so that the people that’s coming on the other side can see it on the left as well. But the one that really matters is that one on the right. And that takes a little getting used to because sometimes you’ll see a light a little ways away and think that’s the one that matters to you. And there’s another one closer that you actually have to stop for. So the green light ahead, there might be a green light ahead, but there’s a red light before that. And so you have to stop that red light and then wait and go through the next This

often happens when they want to give the right away to buses. So they will create a bus line, they will stop, they will stop you just shy of where you think the intersection is. So that the best can always get through the green light. And if you if you’re not paying attention to the, to the light to your immediate, right, you might go through that. But it’s not that common, but it is it does happen.

Another thing to keep in mind is that when a French person puts his blinker on, that means I’m going you know, I know a lot of times in the US it’s more of a you know, you’re you’re indicating your desire, not your intention. It’s like I’d like to move left. So if you could consider leaving me a spot to go in that it’d be really nice. Know, when a French person puts on this blinker, that usually means I’m going yeah, so. So be aware of that, that it’s not just Hey, if you don’t mind, it’s I’m going out. And also, if you can remember yourself that if you put on your blinker too early, you might surprise people a little. Yep. More and more in in a lot of places in the US, I know that. You’re not allowed to use your cell phone while you’re driving. And that’s absolutely the case here. In fact, of all the things that we talked about as far as tickets and stuff, the thing I actually know the most people getting tickets for. And, and and if they’ll see if they see a cell phone in your hand,

I actually had a cop stop me and ask me, were you on the phone. And I wasn’t, I was scratching my face. I had my hand to my face because I was scratching my face. And I showed him Look, my phone is on the other side. You know, it’s on the passenger seat. And it’s turned off, I was not talking on the phone. But so I got out of that one. But they do jump out right in front of you like to catch you on the phone. It’s crazy. You’re crazy.

Yep. Another big difference from what I was used to is that a lot of places I drove you are allowed to make a right hand turn at a red light, you had to come to a full stop, look, make sure nobody was coming. But then you could go here, that is not the case. Unless there’s an extra light next to the red light. If there’s a little arrow light that that’s on or blinking, then it’s the then it works the same. Yeah, you know, what, stop, make sure nobody’s come and go. But if that arrow is not there, you can’t turn right, just because we

know right don’t read.

Another thing that can be a little confusing is if you come to one of these red lights on the pole. So you’ve got the big light up high, the little light lower. And somewhere in the middle, there might be what looks like a little yield sign a mini yield sign, it’s not as big as the usual ones, you know, just a simple triangle upside down triangle thing. And you might think what in the world are there or there might be another thing that’s kind of a yellow diamond. And

I know what it’s for, tell us. It’s just in case the light doesn’t work. Right? If the light is out, then it turns into a yield or a stop depending on what they put on the pole.

Right. And so if and so as long as the lights working, you ignore those little signs. And if but if the light weren’t working, then the yield sign would mean you have to yield to the other direction or a stop sign would mean you have to, you know, stop and

right. But honestly,

if there’s a little yellow diamond, which kind of means actually you get the priority, but it’s very rare that the lights don’t work. So generally ignore those littles and

if the light is out that just slow it down and do whatever else is, you know what everybody else is doing do that. That’s probably safe, right? A

lot of people ride bikes, on the public roads in France, and they have every right to do so. And if you’re in a city, you need to make sure that you that when you pass them, you leave them a meter or a yard, so that they’ve got plenty of time to plenty of place to wobble if they need to.

one meter is a lot it’s it’s bigger than a yard. So yeah,

a little bit. Yeah. And

pretty much pretty much if they reached their arm out towards you, they couldn’t touch your car. Mm hmm. And if you’re in the countryside, you’re supposed to leave a meter and a half, you’re really practically supposed to go out into the other lane.


and if you drive in the countryside in the summer in France, you will see gobs of cyclists. Yep, lots and lots of them. So be aware that and be careful of cyclists.

Not so much in the country, they’re usually pretty easy. But in the city,

people on regular bikes, who are just running errands or going to work or school or something like that on a normal bike, not the people in you know, sports get up and helmets and such going long distance. Yeah. But the but the kind of commuter bikers, and the pedestrians watch out because they are crazy. I was saying that the the French drivers aren’t so bad, but pedestrians and cyclists.

They’ll jump right in front.

Yeah, you need to be really careful in cities. Because you know, people will try to dodge across the street with there’s not a crosswalk or on a red light or all kinds of things. And they know, I mean, they don’t want to get hit. Obviously they’re keeping an eye out for things but but in the back of their mind, they know if anything happens. It’s the driver’s fault. And it

is in France, it it really is a pedestrian, theoretically could cross anywhere they want and not get, you know, not lose a court case. They might lose their life, which you know, you think it would slow them down, but some you know, but it

doesn’t seem to

Yeah, some people it doesn’t, some people doesn’t. So this is another

reason why you know why I say don’t drive in Paris, because it’s not just the other cars or the parking or the everything else. It’s also dodging all the pedestrians and cyclists. And

surprisingly, it’s often the older people who are just insane. They will. I mean, they’re so used to crossing streets, anywhere the jaywalking like is this, it’s to them, it’s a second second nature. And so they will, they don’t realize that with age, they’ve slowed down, they used to jog across that street, they’ve done it all their life and the still to do it at 80. Yep, and it’s not there’s a

certain logic to it, it’s like they’ve lived this long, why not.

Another thing to watch out for is, in the US, if we have two different colors of lines for the lanes and the road, white lines and yellow lines, and so the yellow line down the middle shows that the traffic is going to go on different directions on the other side of the lines. And that’s just not how it works. Here. They’re there. If you ever see a yellow line here, it’s all the lines are probably yellow. And it’s because they’re doing construction. Yeah. And so it’s a temporary marking for you know, a lane change as you avoid construction. So you need to watch very carefully for for one way signs, the kind of red circle with the white bar in it that says you, you know, don’t turn here because you’d be going down a one way street the wrong way. Or for the signs that say, you know, no left turn here, you know, when you get the little left hand arrow with a bar through it. You need to be very careful of those things. And you need to trust those things and not the direction that cars are parked on that street. Because maples will often Park backwards. And and so just because you look down the street and see a couple cars going that way. Yeah, there’s a perfectly good parking space there. us right there, right parking parking is is rare in a lot of places. And so people do what they can. But again, this is the locals knowing what they can get away with. And so don’t don’t trust the way a car is parked on the side of the street to say, oh, clearly I can drive that way. Look, look for the signs. Yep.

And speaking of lanes when you are on the freeway,

if you’re not passing, stay in the right hand lane. And the French are really quite good about this. This is a pretty big deal in front. Yeah, well, and you don’t pass on, you don’t pass on the right. If you want to pass, you know, get into the middle or the inside lane and pass and then you back over to the right.

Yeah, if you don’t, they will not be happy with you. Yeah, they will ride your tail, and they will be very impressed. And this is where you’re going to get honked at, or brights flashed at you. And it’s not even illegal. That’s right. And, and they will be right do not just troll the fast lane because you feel like it.

Speaking of lanes, on the freeway, when lanes merge together, they’re well indicated with you know, big signs with arrows coming together. It’s very intuitive, very easy. And they give lots of warning, no problem in the cities. Unfortunately, there is no such sign. Sometimes you can tell by arrows on the ground. But when you’re driving in traffic, a lot of times the cars in front of you are hiding those from you. Look ahead. And so if you look ahead and think Hmm, looks like on the other side of that intersection that roads not as wide as it is here. Then just go through slowly what look around, you know, and it’ll work out everybody else is doing the same. Yeah. But

it can surprise you that you’ve been surprised times. Yeah, I have.

Another thing that can be surprising in the city in the same vein is the near an intersection, there will be arrows painted on the ground to show like this lane is for a right hand turn this land is to go straight through this lane is to go left. And or sometimes kind of a two headed arrow. This could be you know, right or straight, that kind of thing. And oftentimes you don’t see those until it’s pretty late. And sometimes you’ll find yourself stuck in a turn lane when you wish to go straight. Try not to panic, it happens to everybody just you know, go around the block or pretty soon there’ll be around about you can do a U turn really easy.

You could try and merge into the traffic.

There’s not too much traffic you can try and certainly again, this is the kind of thing that it’s not even just because you’re a foreigner it’s it’s confusing. It’s a little it’s not terribly well marked for their million in one signs. I’m surprised that they don’t have a little bit better for

the government for new sign. Yeah, no, no.

I’ll tell you, whoever whoever has the contract for making signs is just rolling in the dough. And it is surprising to me that you know for all the nonsense signs that they have that they don’t see something as important as this but but so this can be surprising. Obviously people live in the area. Get used to those those patterns but but even French people who aren’t from an area can get surprised by that. So don’t don’t be too hard on yourself if you if you get confused by such things because they can be a bit on the confusing side. I talked about cell phones being strictly enforced. Another thing that’s very strictly enforced here is seatbelts. Everyone has to wear a seatbelt. I know some places I’ve lived if you’re an adult or you’re in the backseat, or there are some exceptions, there are no exceptions here

helmets if you rent a motorcycle or

are also absolutely required. Yeah.


Yep, no exception. And, and so

everybody goes no,

not on bikes. Bicycles don’t require a helmet, although my bad idea. But motorcycles do no matter how old you are, no matter how small the motorcycle or scooter is. They’re required. And everyone has to be in a seat belt if not a booster or a baby seat.

Yep. That’s the rules.

fuzz busters, radar detectors. 2000. euro fine. Legal don’t get caught with drinking and driving. I mentioned earlier a few statistics. If you hit point oh, five blood alcohol level. It’s a 750 euro. Fine. And if you hit point eight, or refuse to take the test, it’s a 4500 euro fine and possible jail time. Now. It’s like I said earlier, it’s strict. That is that is point oh five is just a couple drinks.

Yeah, if that. And if you’re a skinny woman, it’s it’s one one. It’s one if you’re a burly guy, yeah, you’ll get away with maybe a couple of drinks. But really, and it’s strictly enforce, and they will stop people, the cops go out in force, and stop everybody on the freeway, everybody gets off the freeway and blows in the machine.

Yeah, and actually nowadays, they’ve got a new gadget that’s kind of cool that for a long time, you know, there was this kind of tube that you got to try this recently, there’s a new thing. There’s no tube at all. The box just has kind of a little circle on the end that looks like an integrated microphone. And they say count to five and you just go under pocket sank. And Enough of your breath goes into it that it detects from that so they don’t have to keep changing out the little straws, things but

they will set traps. Sometimes it’s late at night. Sometimes it’s not on very busy freeways if you see you know, if you see a like a huge traffic jam where you like what is it? Is this an accident or something? It could be an accident, but it could also be

it’s actually more likely to be we’ve definitely seen all those we’ve made definitely seen more of those for alcohol traps than for actual accident. Yeah,

they and and honestly, you can’t get away with not blowing you. Everybody has to blow and they don’t even check your documents or anything. All they want to do is they want all the drivers to to be checked for alcohol. And so because the rules are so strict, people are getting to the point where they they have designated drivers and they know to be careful, you know? I mean, they will impound your car. They will take your license right there. And then you will have to drive call somebody to come get you. If you’re above a certain limit, which I think is the oh five is where they just car impounded. Go home. Oh, yeah. Oh, wait. Yeah. Okay. But boy, it is what maybe three drinks. It’s not like you’re not really trying on the person. Yeah.

When I when I, when I was living in Utah, of all places, which is very conservative about this kind of thing for a long time. away was when you first had a concern. Right. Right. You know, and now that’s the really bad infraction. Yeah, yeah. So I’m thought, I don’t know what you thought does anymore. It’s been ages since I’ve been there. So. But But yeah, this is this is tight. And I personally know, people who’ve gotten in trouble for this. Yeah. I know a guy right now who doesn’t have his license for six months, because he was a little over that weight limit. And then they took away his car and they took away his license, and his wife had to come pick him up and, and they don’t mess around. Yeah, so even though it’s famous for wine country?

Well, we had a problem for many years, we had a problem, especially in the countryside people. You know, I mean, older French people are used to drinking at every meal, like they will have to three drinks at every meal. They’re I mean, they’re functioning alcoholics, but you know, they’re alcoholics, really, there’s no way around it. And, and so it was a problem. And so now we catch him. Yeah.

Okay, now, we’ve talked a lot about tickets and about police people. A few other thoughts on the police in France. Have your driver’s license with you? And if you’ve got the international permit with you, but in France driver’s license isn’t actually ID. It’s just permission to drive. And so make sure that you have actual ID with you as well. Most of us a passport. Yeah. And the cops any alluded to this earlier, but I don’t think she really went into detail. She mentioned you know, things about the cops hiding or kind of standing out in front of you. That’s another thing that’s that’s a little startling here is there. They’re not all in their car behind you flashing their lights, actually, a lot of them will be right in front of you. Yeah, a lot of them right in front of you, as you come through a toll as you come through the toll booths. Quite often there will be a cop Well, not all that often. But we saw one,

just this weekend,

last weekend. So it’s fresh on the brain, you know, there will be a cop standing right there with a like out in the middle of the road where these eight lanes of people paying their tolls are trying to get back into the two or three lanes of freeway.

I mean, she was right in the middle of traffic. But she was waiting because she had gotten a call from speed. Somebody was asking locking people further up probably as you approach the toll because they want you to slow way down before the tolls. And so they sometimes have a police officer right there clocking you and then they Radiohead the license plate of the people who were in the you know going too fast. And she is going to be she’s right in the middle and she’s looking and when she sees the correct license plate she’s gonna run to that car and stop that

she’s gonna blow the whistle and point out them yeah, the time I got the time you know, any mentioned I got caught with a cell phone. The guy was like standing on the island that had the red light on it. And and kind of right up against the wall. I didn’t even see him there. And of course, part of that was because I was messing with my phone, you know? Although, although, you know, I wasn’t actually making a phone call it was it was an alarm was going off to remind me of something I knew full well I was late for and I was trying to get it to shut up. But I did CM and and as I pull up to the red light, he leans right in front of the the window and blows his whistle and taps his finger on the window right in front of my nose. And I just about came out of my head. And my mom who was who was in the passenger seat was pretty alarmed as well. And then he starts pointing, you know, go over and pull over to the side over there. We’re going to have a little chat. And so yeah, he just about gave me a heart attack and are times that I’ve seen in in the city going down, you know, some some street and and seen a cop that was standing between a couple of parallel parked cars on the side, huh. And he was jumping out at people who had run a red or a stoplight or something like Yeah, right there in traffic.

Yes, yeah. Yeah. But her daring and so cops are fearless in France, and but they’re also a type of cop that French people fear more than the others. And that’s the motorcycle cops. For some reason. If anybody sees a motorcycle cop, they will slow down. Maybe they mean business more. And there’s john the whole movie. So they’re almost near military. Yeah. Theoretically, john, the whole movie. It’s a classification that their military they they live in, in barracks. And I mean, they you know, it’s like, different. It’s not like you’re serving police. Yeah,

there are different kinds of police. Yes. Yeah. That’s that’s the big deal. One Yeah.

So and and policeman. So if you’re caught by a policeman instead of a photo cop, they can actually take payment, they can actually take in many cases, not always, but in a lot of cases, they can actually take your credit card and, and take cash, right? I don’t believe so. Yeah, no, I don’t believe so. But, but they can take credit cards, and

cops are typically not corrupt in France. No, don’t try to bribe a cop in France. Yeah. Don’t try to bribe a cop out of fine. And if they ask you for payment. I don’t know if they’re allowed to ask for cash. But if they are, they will be you received? Yes. I don’t think the guys you’re not being fleeced,

you’re not being used. What’s happening in that case? There are two things going on. In the case of a tourist, they’re trying to make sure they get paid at all right? Because they know that you could well just take off without paying it down there. Although if you’re in a rental car, like I said earlier, yeah, we’ll go to the rental company, who will certainly pass it on to you. But the other thing that they’re trying to do, and this is important to know, is they’re trying to get you to admit to what you’ve done. Because if you pay a fine in France, if you pay a moving violation, fine, then you have admitted guilt. Yeah. And there is no way to appeal after you’ve paid. So if something happened that you thought, No, I’m going to try to appeal that. Don’t pay it right. You have to start the appeal process first. Don’t pay it because once you pay it, you’ve admitted guilt. Cases closed yet. So after all of this talk about please, man, I hope that we haven’t scared you to death and thought I can’t possibly drive in France. There are cops everywhere. It’s not true. It’s actually not true. Compared to my experience in the US. I actually see cops a lot less. Yeah, in France than I do. In the US. I know. Of course, most of the time when I see them in the US they’re just driving around. But but I see cops driving around reasonably often when I’m when I’m in the US. And here I only occasionally see when when I saw the one at the told the other day. I I couldn’t really quite remember the last time that I’d seen one.

Yeah, yeah, it’s not all the time. And so when you

see them, when you see them, it’s different enough that it’s good to know and and as long as you’re careful, that probably won’t be a problem. And your biggest concern is going to be the the photocopies not the not the people cops. It’s going to be the speeding tickets and the red lights that you’re going to be really careful about because that’ll just get mailed straight to Yep. straight to your rental agency. Since they’ll know the they’ll recognize the license plate. Yep. But so so don’t worry at the it’s it. I want you to know about it. But it’s not that

it’s just paranoid. It’s Yeah, yeah.

But it’s just it’s good to know your rights especially and because it can be a little alarming at first. So


probably the craziest thing in France. And the thing that I really hated it first right hand priority wasn’t what got my goat at first. The thing I really hated at first was roundabouts. Interestingly enough, now I’m completely addicted to them. And when I go someplace without roundabouts, I miss them. But it’s true that they take a little getting used to Yeah. And so, you know, for anybody who hasn’t seen one, it’s it’s you know, it’s there’s sometimes called traffic circles, or rotaries and and there will be one or more lanes going in a circle. And they they are supposed to kind of replace stop and yield and four way stop and lights and this kind of thing. And have some interesting properties where they tend to deal with traffic more naturally. The Yeah, then those other systems and you tend to

miss tested them. That’s true. And and there’s a good episode on them. Yep.

Yep. Even though and they were quite surprised at how well it turned out.

Right. And they were testing them with Americans. We didn’t know what the heck they were doing. Because I could tell from seeing the testers that they were brand new with it.

Yeah, French, French drivers would have been even more aggressive.

French drivers are gone way faster, you don’t need to slow down that much at around about anyway.

So generally, generally, what you have is it’s like a big intersection. And if you don’t know what this is just Google for, for roundabouts. And you can find all kinds of Yeah, friends pictures, and Well, hopefully not too many horror stories. But, you know, the classic situation is that you just have, you know, four entrances, you know that you’ve got this kind of plus sign shaped intersection, that that’s now got a circle in the middle of it. And as you come up to it, generally, as you come up to it, you’re going to have a little yield sign that’s going to show you that you have to yield to the people in the middle. So in this case, it’s it’s your you’re letting the people coming from your left, go instead of the the other rule and the rest of the area wherever you have to the right. But generally, you have a little yield sign. And so you come up, if nobody’s in there, you just hop right in, you don’t have to stop.

And you also have a blue one way sign ahead of you.

Yeah, there’s a there’s an arrow inside that shows which direction to go around the surface.

This is just for the English. That’s

right, because since they drive to the left, they go clockwise, instead of

go round round round about some the wrong direction.


So for four people I’m sorry.

Well, any is still scarred from trying to drive her French car in England, which is a double whammy, because I know I think if that I think that if your steering wheel had been on the other side, like the locals, it wouldn’t have been okay. Yeah.

But that was really unnerving. Yeah, take the roundabout the wrong way,

at night, and yeah, we were tired. Anyway. distraction. So normally, if you’re going to get off right away, so you’re going to essentially do a right turn. Then, as you approach the roundabout, you should start signaling, right. And you should kind of hug to the right as you go into the circle, just kind of stay to the right signal to the right, work your way out. You know, just stop if you need to, or slow down if you need to let people get past but once there’s a spot, just go in, go to the left and be signaling to the right the whole time and people behind you will know what you’re doing. The people trying to come into the roundabout from other spots will see that that they don’t need to wait for you because you’re just, you know, going to leave the circle before they want to come in so they can hop out right away. If you’re going to go straight through Now, what I’m telling you right now is not what the rules say, for as much as my wife will tease me about loving the rules, what I’m going to tell you now is what people do, because that’s what matters. So that you don’t surprise people, if you’re going to essentially go straight through, you know, you just want to get to the other side, don’t signal it all, kind of try to hug the inside of the you know, go as straight through as you can and kind of, you know, go to the left and so that you’re close to the, to the circle in the middle. And and and just work your way right through. And there are all kinds of rules about how to signal and other things like that, that nobody does. And you’ll just confuse people if you do it,

right, except for driving schools, which have to do it right. And so if there’s a driving school on the roundabout, there’s a student driver on the roundabout, they will behave a little strangely, very strangely, as a matter of fact, but they have

to, they’ll hug to the right and then signal when it’s time to go out and confuse everybody, not just you.

Yeah, yeah.

Then if you’re going to turn left, what you do is when you’re coming up to the entrance, start signaling left right away. And by left, I mean kind of turning left, or Yeah, if you’re going to go three quarters or more, you might be doing this to do a U turn. Yeah. And so what you’ll do is you’ll, you know, at the entrance, start signaling left, you know, slow down or stop if you need to let people buy and then hop in, and again, hug that that island in the middle to the left, until you’re about ready to come out and then and leave your signal left the whole time, then as you’re coming upon the exit that you want to get out of whether it’s that 123 quarters of the way or all the way around or whatever, then switch your signal to the right, so that so that the people behind, you can see that you’re about to cut back across. And

if you do that, you will surprise no one,

right? That’s right, you’ll you know, as long as you’re signaling left, they’ll know that you’re going to keep going and once you start signaling, right, and they will let you they will let you see

this is confusing. Sometimes when there’s very small roundabouts, for instance, near where we live, there’s a place that has around about where 90% of the people, maybe 99% of the people go straight through, but it’s also the entrance to a small supermarket. And so the people who want to get into the supermarket, they will do a three quarter turn around. And they really need to be careful because everybody’s so used to everybody going straight through. If they want to go left, they need to really blink left, otherwise, they might surprise people coming into the roundabout. And that’s just because people are so used to going straight through that. That’s right.

That’s signaling that signaling. I’m not saying that everybody does it perfectly.

Right. No,

but but it’s a good idea to do when you’re not used to the area. clearly show both by signaling to the right and hugging the right of the of the circle that you’re going to go right.


or clearly position your car even though not signaling per se like you’re trying to go straight through.

Yeah. And and clearly cigars.

It matters either. And I found it with with the whole driving school experience. And that that matters. The position of the car matters more than the blinker in that case. Yeah. Because Because that’s the signal people read, right? Because normally, you’re supposed to hug the side and then not signal beforehand, but signal as you’re about to leave. And every time I did that somebody else would jump in front of me thinking I was going to turn

right beside you had a driving school thing on top.

They should have known better, but they but they don’t they don’t pay attention to that.

Yeah, they don’t pay. Well, actually. They do it on purpose. They jump in front of you. So they’re not stuck behind you.

Oh, maybe. But But anyway, you know, I’ve found that if that that’s one rule that I absolutely refuse to follow, because it confuses everybody. Yeah, yeah. So just kind of, you know, stayed kind of hug the center island goes straight through as you can and just go straight and and that’ll work. And if you’re going left signal left until you’re about to exit and then signal right, that shows I’m going to come right back across an exit. Yeah, then everybody will know what you’re doing. Now everybody else won’t be quite as diligent. Yeah, as disciplined about it as you. But one of the great things about a roundabout is you can’t go very fast in the middle of a roundabout, and everybody is at least going the same direction. So it turns out that there are a lot fewer problems in a roundabout then in a then in a light, you know, where you have people turn up and yeah, and and there are a lot of accident, right on about right, because you just kind of have to slow down and look at what everybody’s doing. You don’t you don’t really have much choice. And you don’t just come up on an intersection that’s got a green light, you just blow through saying, you know, clearly I have priority. I don’t have to stop and wait and see if somebody was asleep at the wheel or drunk, you know, in the roundabout. You know, you’re always alert. And it’s one of the reasons why why things actually worked out pretty well here is with all the roundabouts, chicanes speed bumps, you know, all these crazy things going on the the French people are really quite alert as they drive. And and so you know, lanes merging this than the other they don’t, they don’t just kind of zone out and get on autopilot. Because you can’t there’s there’s too much going on. And so just the streets and narrow, you have

to get attention, you’re going to hit some

narrow and often windy and things like that. So that that gives you some ideas, and you’ll quickly get addicted to them, because they’re great for you turns. And so if you ever make a wrong turn, just know, it will probably be around about pretty soon. And you can get turned around no problem. A few roundabouts that are very large, will actually also integrate lights. Yeah, you might, you know, you might be coming up on a roundabout and see a light, red light. And so you have to wait to get into the roundabout because of the light. And sometimes it’ll even stop you at

different points. But again, if it’s just if it’s a big enough round about that it has a light there probably lots of other people taking using that roundabout. So just do what

just follow what they do. Yeah, and again, and just keep an eye out, though on on your right hand side for those little lights. In that case. Yeah. And, and one thing that’s kind of funny, and this applies to around about and it can also apply to other strange intersections, is if you’re looking because sometimes you had a light to get into the roundabout, but but inside the roundabout, there aren’t any. But you can see people who want to come in are stuck at a light. And on your side of the light on the back of the light, there’s a red plus lit up. And that’s a signal to you that those guys on the other side of the light are looking at a red light. That’s so so that’s actually telling you Yeah, go ahead because these guys are stopped at the light. And sometimes if you ever had an intersection, where you realize that people coming into that intersection a different direction from you have you know are looking at a light and on your side, there’s already plus, that means they’re stopped. You can go don’t that’s that plus isn’t for you. It’s for them, just letting you know about them. So


in cities, lots and lots of parallel parking and and usually paying I mentioned the word pay on earlier. Depending on the city, they may take coins, they may take credit cards, although if they take credit cards, only the ones with the chips that you talked about on your other episode. Yeah, you know, you need a pen. And in some places like in Paris, there’s a card called laptop and craft that you can get at a tobacco shop where you you know get like 10 or 20 euros and then you can use it in the

10,000 euros will be good enough to park for two hours. Okay.

Paris don’t think it’s that bad. Yeah.

But if it’s if lines are painted in blue, on the ground,

yeah, if you have little, little dotted dotted blue lines showing, that’s your hint that you have to pay? Yep, yep. And they usually have something called all that what I call parking meters, it’s a it’s a it’s a meter, usually. Now in a lot of US cities, I know that there are little meters at each spot. And that’s never the case here have now seen that. So not park your car, park your car and go look around within within a block, you’re going to see, you know, a machine that you can put some money or whatever, and it will give you a ticket, go back and put the ticket on your dashboard so that it’s visible from the outside.

And in

most cities, it’s free to park between 9pm and 8am. So once you know, but you see it, if you put coins in the machine, and it jumps all of a sudden to 8am the next morning or 815 or whatever, right? It just means that you’ve paid like you arrived maybe at 8:30pm. And you put a Euro in there. And that’s good enough till the next morning at

810 are right and the leaders and the meters will know about things like if you don’t pay an evening, or if you don’t pay on Sundays, or if you don’t pay on holidays. And so yeah, as you start putting your money in, it will be showing you date and time this is good until and sometimes that can jump quite a bit on the Saturday night, you might get all the way till Monday morning

or right and you have

to pay attention to the dates and young the time on the display if you can see it, and then just and then just stick that go back and stick that in your car dashboard where it’s visible to the estimates.

Yeah, the no parking sign. I didn’t talk a lot about signs. But the no parking sign is really odd and doesn’t. I don’t I don’t know who thought this up. It’s like a blue circle with a red ring around it and a red slash through the middle. And that means no parking. And but, you know, pretty much you’ll have an idea, you’ll see where people are parking.

I guess I could put a picture of a no parking sign on the website. And

then sometimes there’s a slash going the other way too. So there’s kind of a red X over this blue circle. And that means no parking or stopping. You’re not even allowed to like stop and let somebody out of the car or take your groceries out. I mean, you’re supposed to just just move on.

Yeah, yeah. I’m

also speaking of parking, don’t leave anything. in plain sight, anything especially valuable, but even really much of anything. Unfortunately, burglaries of cars are quite common in France. And if you leave a bag or, or something, it wouldn’t be surprising if somebody broke a window to see if it was worth

taking. Yep, it has happened to me, it’s been a long time. But it’s happened to me.

In case of an emergency or an accident, if if you get in a little fender bender, there will be forms inside of the car called Costa Meola, which is an amicable accident report. If no one was injured, you don’t actually have to get the police involved,

they won’t even come Yeah, you can.

You basically just kind of draw what happened and send it off to the insurance. Now as a visitor, make sure to call your The, the, the French person will probably just want to fill out the form and sign it and take off and won’t even call their insurance company, right, they’ll just send in the report later and let the two insurance companies fight it out. In your case, it would be a good idea to contact your rental agency and find out what you do so that you don’t have to do the arguing you know, so you don’t sign something that you’re not sure what you’re saying. But generally, in that case, you do not specifically admit fault, you just kind of tried to describe what happens and then the two insurance companies figure out, you know, this one’s going to pay or that one’s going to pay or they’re going to split it 5050 or something, whatever. Yeah, and, and it usually works out really well because it means that small accidents, don’t backup traffic waiting for cops and, and things like that. And you just kind of signed the thing and move on your way. If If there if there is some problem where you can’t drive anymore, you know, and you’ve had some kind of breakdown, whether it was from an accident, or just some kind of you know, ran out of gas or some mechanical problem, you will find in the car that the rental agency will have provided kind of a red and orange emergency triangle, which you know, support off the cars as you can from the road. And especially if you know you’re around a curve or something if people are gonna have a hard time seeing you. But you’re supposed to take the triangle about about 30 meters behind the cars. Yeah, we’ll see it set that up. And there’s a bright yellow or green vest that you’re supposed to wear. And then especially if you’re on the freeway, you want to get you and anyone else in the car on the other side of the

rail, the security rail security rail,

never cross the freeway.

And and then

nearby, there should be every couple of kilometers. There’s a big orange post with an emergency phone in it.

Yeah. doesn’t work anymore. Some.

So you can also call 112 on us on a cell phone

or any cell phone. And yeah,


so 112 is the emergency number. And also there are these orange posts. Yep. So I talked a lot, I hope I haven’t scared everybody out of out of driving.

Have you been very thorough, I have to say, congratulations. A lot of stuff.

But, you know, the the point of this was not to talk people out of trying it just to give you a few ideas that would hopefully give you some confidence. And you know, so that if you ever got honked at or something, you kind of know why instead of thinking, yeah, at least people are just random and crazy. But just take a lot of deep breaths. Keep an eye out, don’t go too fast. Know that any mistake you make probably a local makes, you know, and yeah, scenario because it is a little complicated. It’s not a big deal. But because things are kind of chaotic, as far as the way the roads work and stuff. You know, the other drivers are watching out for surprises pretty well, too. They really don’t zone out too badly. Because you can’t. And and even if you make some mistakes, you’ll get some little illegal honk and you know, at you and big deal. And so and if you do miss a turn or if you do get a little bit lost, don’t worry, you know, drive around the block with for the next round about, you know, you’ll you’ll get there eventually with a good GPS.

Yeah, yeah. Okay, well, you have told us a lot of things. I think this episode is going to be probably one of the longest we’ve ever done. But that’s okay, we’ve decided that we’re not going to worry about the length of the episodes anymore. We’ll just do whatever makes sense. So I just want to remind everybody that we would love it if you would go to join us in forward slash 16. This is Episode 16. And to the very bottom of the page, you will see share buttons, share this episode. I’m sure you know people who are going to be driving in in France very soon and send us any other questions. While you’re at the website. post your questions in the comments and we’ll respond. So thank you very much everybody and happy driving in France.

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Category: Driving in France