Motoring in Brittany France
If you enjoy driving but have never driven in France before, then you are in for a treat.
There are large areas of France where you can drive, uninterrupted by traffic jams or other obstacles, for miles and Brittany is no exception. It is wonderful to drive surrounded by the green countryside with only
the occasional other vehicle on the horizon.
Probably the busiest road in Brittany is the N12 which stretches horizontally between the west of Brittany, Brest in Finistere, and the east of Brittany, Rennes.
The town of Brest has a busy port receiving shipped goods from Spain and oher countries which are then transported along the N12 into main France for onward distribution.
Also contributing to the busyness of the N12 route are the ports of Roscoff and St Malo for the same reasons as Brest.
Apart from the N12 and a couple of others, motoring in Brittany and indeed most of France is a very placid and enjoyable experience.
Speeding fines in Brittany
This pleasant driving experience can however be interrupted. In France there are plenty of speed traps, and the first you will know about it will be when an envelope arrives through your letter box containing your “Avis de Contravention” – Notice of Contravention, which effectively is your speeding ticket.
No points are added onto your driving licence, but it is in your interest to pay the fine as quickly as possible by going onto www.amendes.gouv.fr and following the links which are in English and easy to understand.
There are three levels of fine which are 45, 68 and 180 euros depending on how quickly you pay.
Apart from paying online, there are other payment options which are listed in your Notice of Contravention.
Checklist for driving in France
If you want to keep within the French legal requirements, in your boot should be the following items;
Hi-Viz jacket or waistcoat
Hazard warning triangle
Headlamp beam deflector
GB sticker, to be placed on rear of vehicle
Original registration document
Motor vehicle insurance
As it stands, you may receive an on-the-spot fine for neglecting to provide any of the above. In addition, the law changes continuously so make sure that there are no additions to this list when you set off on your travels in France. You can double-check with various online agencies including the AA and you can also purchase a drive-in-Europe kit from stores such as Halfords, which will contain your essential items, or you can order online, or at least get more details from sites such as Amazon through the image on the right.
Drinking and driving in France
I have heard a few stories of drunk drivers in France being stopped by the gendarmes or police and getting away with it and indeed, we have had contractors at the house who have smelled of a heavy apres dejeuner drinking session, but bear in mind that they are French and (hopefully) understand the risk they are taking in their own country, not to mention the risk they are taking with other peoples lives. Perhaps they personally knew the gendarme that stopped them.
Imagine being dragged down to the local French nick accused of drink driving. A night or more in a French cell? With limited French language ability, how would you know what the heck was going on? How would you cope? It would be a nightmare..
But do the French police or gendarmes stop vehicles on just suspicion?
We were stopped for no apparent reason on the road into Ploumilliau in Brittany by half a dozen gendarmes, clad in high visibility jackets, who first wanted to see our documentation, drivers licence, vehicle documents (So make sure you always carry these!) and then wanted to see into the rear of the vehicle and then asked my partner, who was driving, if she had been drinking. She hadn’t and they then let us move on, whilst continuing to stop other vehicles.
Drinking and driving….Don’t do it!!
I don’t mean to be rude to my new countrymen, (and country-ladies) but in my experience, the French seem to fall into two categories, they either drive at a snails pace or risk their own lives overtaking at high speeds, sometimes just before a blind bend. If they can’t overtake they will wedge their vehicle firmly up against your rear bumper until an opportunity arises.
Watch out at roundabouts and intersections; many French drivers will pull out at the last minute quite happily, leaving you to slam on your brakes and curse. I know the same thing happens occasionally in the UK, but here it seems to be the norm.
Also, look out at places where the traffic joins from the right! Unless there are white lines or a single line across the end of their road, they are unlikely to stop. Be careful.
When I took my driving lessons many years ago, the instructor advised me to treat all other road users as idiots, that way I would be safe. I think that particular advice is very relevant here in France.
However, again in my experience, if you are a pedestrian crossing a road in a village or town, the drivers tend to slow right down and wave you across the road, without a trace of annoyance or stress. There’s a plus point!