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MORE TIPS FOR DRIVING IN FRANCE

Avoiding Peak Periods

If you can avoid traveling on Saturdays between July 10th and August 30th, this is very advisable. On these days, many French autoroutes - and in particular all the main arteries to the south - are liable to reach saturation. The worst bottlenecks are in the Rhone valley south of Lyons, along the south coast, and around Bordeaux.

In January and February, Alpine motorways can get hyper-snarled up with traffic.

However, outside these periods, Saturday and Sunday are the best days for driving in France, on motorways and arterial roads. Indeed, on these days, HGV's (trucks) are banned, meaning that unless you get stuck behind caravans or camper vans, combine harvesters or other various slowdowns, driving is relatively hassle-free.

Radio

Listen to the French 24-hour autoroute FM radio station on frequency 107.7 when driving on motorways (it covers the whole of the network). Traffic bulletins are given in English and vary between every half hour or less depending on the gravity of a situation or heavy flow of traffic.

Accidents

If you are involved in any accident involving two or more vehicles while driving in France, you will be asked to fill in a 'constat amiable' (an amiable declaration) by the driver of a French car involved. This is standard practice.

If possible, call your insurance company at once on your cell phone. They may put you in touch with a local French representative.

If you are involved in an accident involving any sort of injury - even if it is not your fault - you MUST remain until the police have come.

Breakdown

If your car is immobilized on or partly on the road due to a breakdown or an accident, you must set up your red warning triangle at a suitable distance behind the vehicle, to alert approaching traffic to the hazard. All cars driving in France must carry a red warning triangle, available from any motoring store, and also a yellow fluorescent jacket.

Entering a Town

Quite often in France, roads go straight through the center of town. This can even happen on four-lane roads - they suddenly get smaller, the speed limit drops, and you find yourself going straight through a town. Pay attention.

In other cases, a road may go through a town, but bypass the center. If you're actually going to the center of that town, you need to watch carefully for another type of sign: the sign telling you you've entered a village. This is a rectangular sign containing a slightly smaller red rectangular border with the name of the town inside it.

When you enter a town, you are entering a zone with a default 50 Km/hr (31 mph) speed limit (unless otherwise posted). Second, by default you are entering a zone where the 'priority to the right' rule applies, unless this is contradicted by an adjacent yellow diamond 'Priority Route' sign. Major roads passing through small villages generally have priority, while smaller roads in smaller towns are still priority from the right (but it`s the signage that informs you, not any such general rule).

Route numbers: these are useful, and they're on the map, but on the signs, they seem to be almost afterthoughts. They appear as small rectangular signs attached to larger signs. You need to pay close attention to notice them, so you might not want to count on spotting them quickly for making snap decisions at forks.

Finding your way through a town is (usually) easy! Most of the old French roads lead through towns, not around them. The best way through town? Just follow Toutes Directions. This is the main route and usually the fastest way if you're just passing through. If you come to an intersection with several destinations posted and don't see yours, then follow Autres Directions. You'll find this pattern throughout France. And of course, to stop and look around, head for Centre Ville.

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