Driving in France

I don’t do a lot of driving when we are in France. I’m not an enthusiastic driver at the best of times, and the thought of driving on the opposite side of the road, in an unfamiliar vehicle, is not appealing. Being here for three months though, I need to be able to get out and about, so I have driven short distances, on occasion.

Today I drove to Esperaza for the Sunday market, then to the supermarket on the outskirts of Quillan. It was uneventful as there was little traffic on the road, being a Sunday. Esperaza, as always, was heaving with the market, and finding a park was difficult, especially given I was looking for easy parks that would not require reversing or parallel parking, or turning.

I drive slower than the speed limit, as do many other tourists. Locals like to drive up your bumper to make it obvious that you are not going fast enough for them, then pass at the last minute, with a wild manoeuvre and an exasperated gesture. Mostly they get away with it, but sometimes they do not. Recently there was a fatal traffic accident outside Quillan, where a 4WD hit a plane tree bordering the road at the point where it opens up for a passing lane, and rolled.

Mostly, driving internationally is pretty safe, as you are driving slowly and paying more attention than usual. The danger is when you lose attention momentarily, or start to feel comfortable. If something out of the ordinary happens at that moment – like a motorbike passing from nowhere, or a car veering wildly in front of you, your instinct kicks in. And chances are, it will be your home driving instinct – you’ll look the wrong way for the rear view mirror, your hand will go to the car door to try and change gears, the windscreen wipers will start swiping madly. And you’ll be toast.

Here’s what I’ve noticed in terms of other points of likely inattention and instinctive error such as finding yourself driving on the wrong side of the road:

  • when taking off after having been parked for a while
  • when exiting a supermarket car park
  • when entering a roundabout
  • when parking
  • when over taking
  • when reversing
  • when passing from a two-way road to a dual carriageway.

i’m happy to drive, but I’m also happy to leave most of the driving to others!



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