Millions of British motorists are taking to the roads in France without understanding some of the most basic road rules. These include not knowing which side of the road to drive on and what prevalent road signs mean, reveals a new study from Churchill Car Insurance.
More than a third (34 per cent) of UK motorists have driven in France at least once, equivalent to around 12.8 million people. But 15 per cent of these drivers didn’t know or were unsure about which side of the road to drive on in France and nine per cent weren’t aware that French road signs display speed limits in kilometres.
With 14 per cent of motorists planning to drive in France in the coming 12 months, the research raises concerns that many drivers may unknowingly break the law. When questioned, 65 per cent of those who have driven in France were not aware that using a hands-free mobile phone whilst driving is illegal. A further 49 per cent did not know that using speed camera alerts on a sat nav is against the law, and 43 per cent were unaware that children under 10 must travel in the backseat of a car.
The study also asked British motorists who have driven in France to identify five common road signs and found that just 35 per cent understood the meaning of all five correctly. The sign which indicates drivers have priority over other motorists joining the road was misunderstood by 67 per cent of respondents and almost a third (31 per cent) failed to identify the National Speed Limit sign, despite it being the same sign as in the UK.
Despite having driven in France, a significant proportion of British motorists are also unclear about the local speed limits. British motorists underestimated the speed limit on French motorways by an average 30km/h, believing the speed limit to be around 100km/h rather than the 130km/h limit. And just a third (32 per cent) of British motorists who have driven in France were aware of the 50 km/h speed limit in urban areas, which comes into effect on the entrance to French towns but isn’t always signposted.
When asked about which items were compulsory to carry in the car when driving in France, only 35 per cent identified all of the items correctly. Just 47 per cent knew that carrying a breathalyser was compulsory, 61 per cent were aware that a yellow florescent jacket was compulsory and 85 per cent rightly indicated that drivers must carry a red warning triangle at all times.
Neil Ingram, product manager at Churchill Car Insurance, said, “There are significant differences between the driving laws in France and the UK. Millions of British drivers are taking to the roads in France without a clear understanding of these variations and they could be putting themselves in real danger.”
“Our advice to those planning to drive in France is to do their homework. Make sure you know the rules of the road, create a checklist of items to purchase in advance and ensure your insurance policy covers driving abroad, as drivers are more at risk of an accident if they are unsure of the local road signs and rules. Many policies provide third party cover for driving abroad, but motorists should consider taking out comprehensive cover for the length of their trip for extra peace of mind.”