Many motorists tend to change their car every three or four years, casually transferring accessories needed in an emergency, such as a flash light and a tow rope, from one boot to another. The oldest surviving item, invariably rusty, bent and battered, is often a warning triangle, needed in the past in the event of an accident or breakdown in France. From now on, this ancient relic will no longer do.
The warning triangle, or triangle de pré-signalisation (TPE), has been required in France since January 1973 but if you failed to carry one technically no offence was committed unless an accident actually happened, or your vehicle broke down. Now it is obligatory to carry a triangle in the boot however incident-free your holiday, and for it to be easily accessible. If during a spot check, an increasingly common occurrence at the Channel ports, you have to move other luggage to retrieve it, the French police may give you a penalty ticket as though you were not carrying a triangle at all. The penalty is 90 Euros if you can pay in cash on the spot, 135 Euros otherwise.
The triangle must confirm with a universal European standard, indicated by a black letter E in a circle, followed by 27R, the number of the Geneva regulation, and separately the letters TPE. Many triangles, particularly those made in the Far East and advertised on the Internet, fail to meet this standard.
You also risk a fine if you fail to put on your hazard warning lights or position the warning triangle incorrectly in the event of breakdown or accident. The triangle should be placed on the carriageway directly in line with the offside rear light of your vehicle, at least 30 metres behind it. However, no driver is expected to take the risks with their personal safety.
The Automobile Association sells an emergency warning triangle that complies with the European standard: