UK drivers heading across the Channel this summer risk rousing the suspicions of the gendarmes by being in the dark about a range of French driving rules, new research conducted for RAC European Breakdown suggests. Six-in-10 drivers who take their own cars or motorbikes abroad (63%) are not aware tailgating is illegal in France, as it is in the UK, while half (49%) do not know that the only legal way of using a handheld mobile phone in the country is to park up in a designated parking place and switch the engine off. Just 38% of drivers know the distracting practice of using headphones or earphones while behind the wheel is illegal.
Meanwhile only half of drivers (49%) know they have to pay a mandatory recovery fee should they break down on a French motorway, with just one in six of these (15%) aware that the fee has gone up to at least €126 per breakdown this year – a cost which rises overnight and during weekends. Depending on their breakdown provider and level of cover, drivers can claim this fee back once they are back in the UK. Reassuringly however, the vast majority of UK drivers heading over the Channel (93%) say they do the right thing and buy European breakdown cover before they go away. Drivers were also asked about their awareness of new speed cameras that are being rolled out across France this year. Despite an understandably low 14% of drivers saying they are currently aware of the new ‘Mesta Fusion’ cameras, those heading abroad will need to familiarise themselves with them, not least because in the future they may be used by the French authorities to catch drivers tailgating, driving in a bus lane or on a hard shoulder and even using a mobile phone illegally.
RAC Europe spokesman Rod Dennis said: “With thousands of UK drivers taking their own cars – and motorbikes – to France in the coming weeks, it can be easy to forget that certain driving conventions can be quite different to those this side of the Channel.
“Breaking down on a French motorway, for instance, results in a driver having to pay a mandatory fee to have their vehicle recovered, before a breakdown assistance company can come to help – a very different experience to here in the UK. So it’s important UK drivers check their breakdown policy covers them before they leave home. “Luckily, the vast majority of drivers say they have European breakdown cover in place before they leave – which is just as well, as a good policy is vital in helping drivers out of a sticky situation should they be unlucky enough to suffer a breakdown away from home.”