Drivers to the Continent unfamiliar with new French driving rules

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More than half (59%) of drivers are unfamiliar with a range of new driving regulations introduced this year in France, a new RAC study has found.

More than three-quarters (78%) were not aware the speed limit on France’s secondary ‘D’ roads was reduced from 1 July from 90kph to 80kph (55mph to 50mph), a move designed to reduce accidents.

Failure to comply could leave UK drivers with a penalty of up to €750 (about £670), which is now all the more likely as fines can ‘follow’ drivers back home under an EU directive.

The new speed limit is just one of a range of measures that have been introduced by the French government to improve safety on its roads, in the face of figures which show rising numbers are being killed.

Less than a quarter of drivers (23%) knew that using headphones or earphones while driving in France was illegal, while only 28% were aware drivers must now switch their engines off in a designated parking place in order to use a handheld mobile phone. Any driver ignoring this law faces the prospect of at least a €135 (£120) fine. Fifty-nine per cent of all drivers questioned said they were not aware of any of these new regulations.

RAC European driving spokesperson Rod Dennis said: “France remains the most popular destination for British drivers, and some changes to driving regulations may come as a surprise to those that regularly cross the Channel by car.

“The French have witnessed a big increase in the number of fatalities on their departmental ‘D’ road network in recent years, and while the decision to cut the speed limit on these roads has been fiercely opposed by some, the law is the law. British drivers that have been driving to France for many years on the same roads should pay particular attention to speed limit signs, especially as new rules now mean any traffic offences committed while away follow UK motorists home again – so there really is no escaping them.

“As the UK moves closer to the moment when it formally leaves the European Union, drivers are also understandably concerned that the ease, and relative affordability, of driving across the Channel will be eroded from next March. Our research clearly shows they want reassurance from the UK government that their interests will be taken into account as part of the lengthy negotiations with the EU.”