In response to road deaths increasing 3.7% to 3388 people in 2014, French authorities (who are committed to a target of no more than 2000 deaths per year) have introduced 26 new measures, most of which are effective immediately. If you are driving on the continent, whether as a resident or tourist, you need to be aware of these new laws. Also, we’re sure that the UK powers that be will be watching very closely the results of France’s measures, particularly around alcohol limits and mobile phone headset bans. Let’s have a look at the major changes that will affect how you drive in France.
Mobile phone headsets/headphones are banned
You can no longer use headphones connected to your mobile phone to make a phone call while driving a car. You can, however, use wireless Bluetooth integrated systems that are hands-free. We suggest that you should not listen to music in your car through headphones, either, as you could get pulled over on suspicion of making a call.
Reduced alcohol limits
If you’re a provisional driver in France, or you’ve held a full licence for less than three years, the new blood alcohol limit is 0.2g per litre, down from 0.5. 18-24-year-olds were responsible for one quarter of deaths between 2011 and 2013, so this measure is directly aimed at them. 0.2g/litre is less than one glass of wine or beer. It’s safer just to not drink at all. It’s interesting that France didn’t go the whole way and ban alcohol completely for young drivers like, for example, New Zealand does.
More double-face speed cameras
There won’t be an increase in the absolute number of fixed speed cameras, which currently stands at 4150, but many of them will be upgraded so that they can catch drivers in both directions. There will be an increase in mobile hand-held speed cameras.
Reduced parking around pedestrian crossings
Pedestrian deaths were up 8% so it will now be illegal to park closer than 5m from any pedestrian crossing so that visibility is improved. There are also larger penalties for parking on pedestrian crossings, cycle paths and pavements.
No more tinted windows
France already has a ban on tinted windscreens, but intends to expand this to all windows in coming years. It’s not effective immediately. This is to allow enforcement officers to check for seat belt usage (among other things), and also to ensure that visibility isn’t compromised.
Lower speed limits on single lane minor roads
The proposed new speed limit drops to 80kph from 90kph. This will take a while to roll out as it will need to be signposted.
Safety vests for motorcyclists
Motorcyclists will have to carry a high-vis safety vest in case they have to stop because of a breakdown.
Similar to the drug tests the UK has rolled out, France is conducting 11 trials of saliva tests for drug usage while driving.
You might see other measures out on the roads, too, like this:
— Ouest-France (@OuestFrance) January 26, 2015
Starting teenagers driving sooner under supervision
This one won’t affect your driving, but teenagers will now be allowed to get behind the wheel from age 15 as long as they are supervised. Presumably this is to increase the amount of practise time they get behind the wheel before applying for a full licence, as there are also measures to help driving instructors.
If you understand French, you can see all 26 measures here (or you can translate it using Google Translate).
*photo credit: Jellaluna on Flickr
Darren has owned several companies in the automotive, advertising and education industries. He has run driving theory educational websites since 2010.