Motoring expert Peter Cook answers your questions about driving in France and finding a good insurance company
Driving safely in France
When driving in France there are several things you need to bear in mind to ensure you stay on the right side of both the road and the law.
For starters, under French law every vehicle must carry reflective warning triangles, a government certified (NF) breathalyser (you need two so always have a spare on board) and reflective jackets for driver and all passengers. Drivers of right-hand drive cars will need headlamp deflectors and a GB sticker if the GB Euro symbol is not on your number plate.
Mobile phones are banned as are hands-free and Bluetooth devices. There is an on-the-spot fine of €135 for anyone who ignores this. Speed camera detectors are also illegal. If your satnav has one, you must disable the alerts as failure to do so can result in a €1,500 fine.
Cars driven in Paris, Lyon, Grenoble, Strasbourg and Toulouse must display a clean air sticker showing how much they pollute. Failure to do so could mean a fine of €68 to €135.
The permitted blood alcohol level in France is 0.05% and 0.02% for drivers with less than three years’ experience. If you wear glasses to drive you must take a spare pair with you and you must carry a full set of replacement bulbs for headlights etc.
Are there special laws I should be aware of? The French drive on the right-hand side of the road, which may take some getting used to, especially at roundabouts, when turning right and overtaking. French motorways have a speed limit of 130km/h (80mph), and 110km/h (70mph) in the wet, unless otherwise indicated. Dual-carriageways and other roads also have wet and dry speed limits. The limit drops to 50km/h (30mph) in built-up areas. Excessive speeding can result in a driving licence being confiscated. Also remember that seatbelts must be worn at all times by the driver and all passengers.
What documents will I need to take? You will need a full driving licence for everyone who will be driving and your V5C, which contains information about when your car was registered, its manufacturer, the colour and engine size. The V5C also identifies the vehicle’s registered keeper. You will also need proof of insurance and passports for the driver and all passengers. A map is handy in case your satnav lets you down, a phrase book and, of course, your ferry or Eurotunnel tickets.
Do I need to inform my insurance company? You should tell your insurer you are taking the car to France. Many companies include cover while driving abroad as part of their policies but you will need to tell them where you’ll be going so they can check your cover and give you information about a green card – the internationally recognised document that acts as proof of insurance in Europe.
A green card? Do I really need one nowadays? A green card is no longer
Mobile phones are banned as are hands-free and Bluetooth devices, with an on-the-spot fine of €135 for anyone who ignores this
compulsory for driving in France but if you have one it will make things simpler should you need to make a claim or provide details to a third party or police. It provides proof, in a number of languages, that you have at least third party insurance while driving in France.
Look for an insurer who can provide specialist European green card insurance to cover your vehicle – from motorhome, to classic, modified or standard car – abroad and when you bring it back to the UK. HIC, for example, can also offer extended European green card insurance for any UK registered vehicle, even if it is kept in Europe for more than six months of the year.
What’s the best thing to do if I break down while in France? The best way to prevent a breakdown is to get your car fully serviced before you set out but it’s also sensible to have European breakdown cover which will usually pay for itself the first time you need it. Ideally you want cover for both UK and European roadside assistance and recovery, including a home start service. It’s a good idea to arrange for additional benefits, including recovery of the vehicle to your home if it cannot be repaired before your planned return date and coverage of costs incurred in travelling from your home or holiday location to collect the vehicle after repair.
Make sure you sign up to a service that operates 24 hours a day 365 days a year and has a large network of breakdown specialists.
What about if I have an accident? However minor it is, you must stop if you have an accident. Failing to do so is an offence. Turn your hazard lights on and place warning triangles in front and behind the accident scene if it is safe to do so.
If the road is blocked or anyone has been injured call the police (and an ambulance if necessary). Contact your insurer’s helpline and take photographs of any damage caused. You must provide your name and address to anyone else involved and get their details too. You will need the registration numbers of all vehicles and a note of the colour, make and models of the cars involved. A sketch showing the positions of the vehicles and an outline of the weather, road conditions, and lighting will also be handy.
Is there anything else I should look for in a motor insurance policy? I would recommend that you get a bespoke policy that offers: Flexible limited mileage options Cover for all types of car, including motorhomes and campers Independent Agreed Value cover Salvage retention Uninsured loss recovery for non-fault claims Free legal cover up to £100,000 Peter Cook is the general manager at HIC Insurance Tel: 0344 381 6530 hertsinsurance.com