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Driving Essentials in France

Driving in France is wonderful. Quite a sweeping statement but it has to be said, apart from cities where traffic is bad the world over, driving in France is a lot more relaxed than in the UK. There seems to be a lot less traffic and the French road authorities don’t seem to have the same love affair with cones that they do in the UK. However, there are a few things you need to know or more importantly to carry in the car as you enjoy your drive through France.

Headlamp Convertors – Car headlights are designed to shine higher on the pavement side than the middle of the road. This obviously gives good visibility without dazzling on-coming drivers. When you take your UK car to France, and drive on the right, this presents a problem. Some newer cars allow you to change the angle of the headlights to prevent dazzling oncoming drivers when driving abroad. If your car lights aren’t adjustable you need to fit headlamp convertors, often called beam benders. These simple plastic stickers are fitted to your headlight lenses and deflect the light beam.

Your lights should be adjusted or beam benders fitted before you enter France.

GB Sticker – Unless your car has GB incorporated into its number plate you will need to fit a GB sticker to the rear of the car. Like beam benders, this should be done before entering France.

A Warning Triangle – you need to be able to warn drivers that you have broken down. If you are travelling on to Spain you need two of these.

Hi Visibility Vests – These are obviously to keep you safe if you breakdown and need to leave the car. You should carry one for each occupant and they must be kept within reach inside the car, that is to say you should be able to put them on before you leave the car.

First Aid Kit – A small first aid kit is never a bad idea no matter where you are driving. As a matter of interest, in France it is a legal requirement that you give help to anyone injured in an accident. See our article Road Accidents in France.

Breathalyzer Kit – this is a recent addition to the must carry list. You are required to carry two NF approved breathalyzers. Initially there were going to be on-the-spot fines for not carrying these kits but the French government has, for the time being, dropped the idea. However, if stopped by the police they will expect you to have both kits. UPDATE – the law regarding this has been been postponed indefinitely – this is due to the poor supply of kits that meet legal requirments – they are available from Halfords and are reasonably cheap so carry one is still recommended..

Spare Bulbs – Depending on who’s advice you take these are either required or recommended. For the sake of the few pounds they cost it is a good idea to carry a kit of spare bulbs. These often contain a selection of spare fuses.

A complete set of essentials is available from Halfords Autocentres.

Fire Extinguisher – It is recommended that you carry a fire extinguisher.

Documents – You need to carry both parts of your driving license (plastic card and paper license).

Take the original copy of your motor insurance certificate and make sure you have informed your insurer that you are travelling abroad.

Keep your passport with you at all times as you may be required to show some form of photo ID. It is particularly important if you have an old style paper driving license without photo id.

You must carry your original vehicle registration document, not a copy.

Other Items – A phrase book, with a good motoring section, can smooth the way to explaining a problem to a French mechanic if your grasp of the language is not up to the job. Depending on where you are travelling you may need to consider other items to suit more specialised condition. If driving on snow you need to give due thought to snow tyres and perhaps snow chains.

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