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As the long-awaited day of departure for your villa in France approaches, it’s time to fine-tune your car (and its driver) to make sure both are up to speed on the latest angles of driving in France. The lengthy checklist of required equipment is readily available from various sources, including our own website, but here are some tips that may come in handy.
The newest mandatory kit is of course the fluorescent vest or jacket, which needs to conform to European standard E471, and which must be carried in the passenger compartment of the car (and not in the boot), to be worn in the event of an emergency stop on the roadside by anyone examining a fault or attempting a repair; this of course need not necessarily be the driver at the time of the incident. It would make great sense to have an extra vest, in case two persons are required to make the repair. All other occupants of the vehicle should immediately leave it and seek a safe position as far as possible from the roadside.
The warning triangle, also required equipment since last July, should be placed on the side of the road at least 30 metres behind the stopped vehicle. This must be carried in an accessible place in the boot of the car, and not buried under piles of suitcases. There are intimidating stories of French police stopping UK vehicles just off the ferry: if you have to shift luggage to get to your triangle, you’ve had it. The triangle must conform to EU norm E27R.
Remember, French police are authorized to charge foreign drivers an on-the-spot fine of 90€, which has to be settled on the spot, for violations involving missing equipment or failure to implement it properly.
Other required equipment includes a clearly-visible GB sticker, for those vehicles without the new EU numberplates, and headlight beam deflectors. A first aid kit and a complete set of spare bulbs and fuses for your car are both very good ideas, but sources differ as to whether they are mandatory. The vehicle registration document (V5C), your certificate of motor insurance, and of course your driving license will need to be produced at any police enquiry.
One bit of equipment to leave at home is your radar detector: French police have been known to confiscate vehicles where these are in use; in other cases, hefty fines of up to €1,500 have been imposed. You may not even transport a radar detector, let alone have it in use, and anyway, French speed limits are not excessively restrictive; why would you need one? Your GPS could come in handy, but note it should not be touched or programmed by the driver unless the car is stationary. Similarly, only hands-free mobile telephones may be used. French police roadside controls use high-powered binoculars to scan approaching vehicles for violations; by the time you see them they know all about you. Keep your hands on the wheel!
The usual caveats also apply of course: seat belts must be worn at all times, in the rear seats as well. All children under 10 years of age must ride in the back seats, and, sorry, your teenager who’s just passed his license back home is not allowed to drive in France if he’s under 18. The drink-driving limit is lower in France than in the UK, only 0.05% compared to 0.08%; whoever is driving back to your villa after that night out at the restaurant will just have to be soberly content with the eternal gratitude of all others present.
From our June 2009 newsletter