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The French Obsession with Road Signs

As if it's not bad enough having to drive on the wrong side of the road whilst remembering the varying speed limits (which literally change depending on the weather), us foreigners also have to contend with the French love of road signage.


Here is an example of 10 road signs in a 100m stretch of road - who can possibly take in all these instructions?

Typical street in a French village

Speed limits:

- Towns or built up areas = 50km/h

- Two lane roads (not in town) = 80km/h, unless it's raining then it's 70km/h (although do check because apparently this speed limit is being changed again)

- Motorway = 130km/h or 110km/h in the rain


A 5 POINT GUIDE TO INTERPRETING FRENCH ROAD SIGNS


POINT 1. Enjoy the French love of reverse-signology.


Logic would dictate that speed limits shown are to inform you of what to expect. Not so in France, mon cherie. Whilst the national speed limit signs look the same as in the UK, if you see a number in it that's the speed you SHOULD HAVE BEEN going up until that sign. Yes, truly.


For example: This numbered sign is saying, 'You should have been doing 30 but now we're changing to the national speed limit. I'm not going to tell you what the speed limit is now, you have to work it out based on where you are. Mwahaha.'

Just to confirm, this sign is in a town so the road is now changing from 30km/h to 50km/h (see above for national speed limits in different areas).


Example 2: Out on a D-road.

Again, you should have been driving at 70km/h until this sign but now you must change to the national speed which, in this case, is 80km/h because I was on a D-road.


These signs were the most bizarre for me as the effort taken to tell you what you should have been doing would surely have been better spent just saying what should now be done.


POINT 2. Pay attention when you enter a town as the speed limit change will not be shown.


When you see a name on a white sign with a red border, this means you have entered the town and the speed limit is now 50km/h. The small sign above tells you the route that you are on.

Sign telling you the town's name and that it's now 50km/h

It is really easy to miss this sign and find yourself racing through a built up area at 80km/h before suddenly realising something has changed while you were admiring the scenery.


POINT 3. Pay attention when you leave a town as, again, the speed limit change will not be signed.


To indicate that you have left the town, you will see a red line through the town's name. This means that the speed limit is back to what it was before you entered the town (good luck remembering that). You can also look at the road name above for an indication: a D-road usually means it's 80km/h.

Sign showing that you've left Guny town

The locals get pretty annoyed if you continue pootling along at 50km/h where the road has changed to 80/90km/h.


POINT 4. Don't worry about the 'priorité de droite' rule, well not too much anyway.


The idea of drivers pulling out in front of me when I'm on the main road really worried me before arriving in France. However, this old French rule has recently come under immense signage, presumably to reduce the number of accidents but, more likely, as an excellent reason for the French to dream up some new confusing signs. Although this reduces stress, you now have to contend with a variance of 'right of way' signs which just look like scribbles on a page.


Take these common examples:

Right of way signs, France

The thicker lines show who has the right of way.


[TOP] The red triangle sign is showing you driving straight ahead at the crossroads and everyone else will stop for you (there are huge red STOP signs on their roads at the crossings).


[BOTTOM] The scribbly mess on the square sign is showing that the thick line (you) has right of way through all of the following connecting roads. Exciting times and no need to worry about stopping.


This yellow triangle also means that you have priority on the road:

Typical right of way sign, France

POINT 5. Remember the signs that show you do NOT have priority and must stop.


This sign shows the end of your priority in 150m (as indicated beneath), ie. make sure to be careful at the next junction.

Be careful in 150m!

The following sign does not show you where treasure is located, more that at the upcoming cross roads you are ALL expected to give way. I found that the fastest, biggest vehicle had priority; this was never me so I just stopped.

X marks the spot (to give way ahead)

Always remember to do your own research before travelling and use this page as guidance.

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About Kelly

Kelly lives by the philosophy of:

'You're more likely to regret the things you didn't do than the things you did do'.

Which is a good way to giggle about the ridiculous situations she often finds herself in...

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