Speed limits in France: the ultimate guide

Speed limits in France: the ultimate guide
As Spring turns to Summer, millions of Brits will be looking at going on holiday – with many heading south across the English Channel to France. But after years of changes, it is important that those looking at driving in the county know the updated speed limits.

Here at the RAC, we have summarised all the relevant information you will need for your French road trip.

Breaking the speed limit in France will likely result in being hit with a large fine, points on your licence, or worse – so stick to limits displayed on the road signs – no matter what type of road you’re on.

Before starting your journey, you will need to make sure you have all your relevant documents including your UK driving licence, V5C logbook, most recent MOT certificate, car insurance and European breakdown cover. Any driver in France, must have at least third-party car insurance to drive in the country.

All speed limits in France are in km/h rather than mph.

Changes to French speed limits in recent years

Since the turn of the century, France has updated their speed limits on multiple occasions – with the aim of saving fuel and lives.

In the most recent changes in 2018, the speed limit on many A and B roads in France was reduced to 80km/h (50mph).

The aim of the reduction from 90km/h (56mph), was to make roads across the country safer for all users and impacted over 400,000km of departmental roads.

For anyone looking at travelling to France who hasn’t done so in many years, the RAC says British drivers will need to get used to driving slower on two-lane highways than they would at home, even though visitors are likely to mainly use bigger, faster roads during their stay.

The speed limit reductions, announced by French government road safety group, La Comité interministériel de sécurité routière, apply to roads without a central reservation ‘separator’, like a rail or barrier, between carriageways.

Over the following 3 years, a lot of data was captured by the French government o see the impact the changes had on road safety – stating that the information showed hundreds of lives had been saved as a result of the changes.

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Why did French speed limits change?

Such roads have been targeted after figures initially showed as many as two-thirds of road fatalities occur on those with the 90 km/h limits.

In 2016, almost 3,500 people were killed on French highways – with 70,000 injuries.

RAC European driving spokesman Simon Williams reiterated that the number of deaths on French roads has increased for three successive years before 2018 – and are were double the number recorded in the UK.

“It is clear that action needed to be taken to save lives,” he said. “How effective this will be very much depends on the level of compliance from motorists and, naturally, the level of police enforcement.

“While the decision will not be popular with French motorists, we know from experience in the UK that those roads are responsible for far more deaths than motorways and dual carriageways.

"We also know that speed is one of the biggest contributory factors in injury accidents.

“British drivers visiting France making longer journeys are unlikely to experience too much impact as the majority of those miles will probably be driven on bigger, faster roads.

"British drivers will, however, clearly have to get used to driving slower on A and B roads than they would at home otherwise their visits may prove expensive.”

With this crackdown on speeding drivers, the RAC advises travellers to respect the laws – and that there has been an increased amount of traffic enforcement to monitor the country’s roads.

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What are the speed limits in France?

With the changes now established and with many Brits looking at taking a French road trip in the months ahead – it is vital to familiarise yourself with the speed limits.

Road TypeSpeed Lmit
Motorway130 kph / 80 mph
Dual carriageways110 kph / 70 mph
Main roads outside built up areas/A & B roads80 kph / 50 mph
Main roads within built-up areas50 kph / 30 mph

Although these are the main speed limits – there are others you should be aware of.

The Boulevard Peripherique that surrounds Paris has a speed limit of 70 kph, while there are 30pmh default limits in the capital as well as Nantes, Lille, and Grenoble.

If you are taking your caravan to France, then there are also two speed limits. If the total weight is under 3.5t, then there is no difference to that of a normal car. However, if the total weight is over the threshold, then motorway driving is limited to 90 kph.

In the UK, there are variable speed limits that often come into force when something is impacting the road ahead. However, in France these only come into place when driving in wet weather.

The limits are reduced to 110 kph for motorways, 100 kph for dual carriageways, and 70 kph for other main roads. If there is a heavy fog, then some areas are reduced to a 50kph limit no matter the type of road until the weather has cleared.

Speeding fines in France

If you are caught speeding on French roads, whether by police, speed camera or another form of traffic enforcement, then you will be registered by the French government for breaking the law.

If stopped by police, you’ll receive an immediate fine. An offender could also have their licence confiscated, be banned from driving in France, or be arrested.

The car will need to be driven home by someone else or you’ll need to pay for it to be towed back to the UK.

Drivers caught speeding in France by camera will receive a letter within 100 days – and the longer you wait to pay it, the more it will cost you. However, if you pay it within 15 days, then your fine will be reduced.

Exceeding limit bySpeeding fine
More than 50 kph€1500
20-50 kph€135
<20 kph in a 50 kph zone (or less)€135
<20 kph a 50+ kph zone€68

Be prepared ahead of your French road trip

Before you get in your car and head south, it is important to remember these important travel tips.

First of all, following Brexit, you will need a UK sticker on your car. Cars with GB stickers need to have them replaced with UK ones ahead of the journey.

Those of you driving through larger cities will need to purchase a French clean air sticker as they are now mandatory in certain areas. If you do not have one you may receive a fine or not be able to enter certain cities at certain times.

These clean air stickers, known as Crit'Air stickers, denote the level of emissions your vehicle produces, and is based on your car's Euro emissions rating.

There's a chance if you drive a slightly older car, it might not be allowed in to certain cities at certain times based on air quality levels on that day.

If you are on the motorway for a large period of your French road trip, you will notice many signs for toll roads. Although there are ways to avoid these as you travel south – it is less economical and longer to do so – so it is advisable to choose the quickest route.

For travellers looking forward to enjoying some French wine, beware of the lower blood-alcohol limit in France.

In England, Wales, and Northern Ireland the blood-alcohol limit is 80mg per 100ml of blood, however, in France it is 50mg per 100ml of blood (the same as in Scotland).

Also, for drivers with less than three years' experience, the alcohol limit has been lowered from 50mg per 100ml to 20mg per 100ml.

Also, do not be caught using a phone while driving – as it will result in a €1500 fine. Drivers are also not allowed to use hands-free or Bluetooth devices while behind the wheel. Ignoring this will result in a €135 fine.

Finally, the RAC has highlighted 16 tips for drivers looking at travelling through France this year – it is important that all road users familiarise themselves with these ahead of your journey.

Stay safe, respect the speed limit – and have a great holiday!

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