Recent news has revealed that more than half of France’s citizens have trouble identifying the common road signs and the messages being delivered. Hence, this post is for those who are planning to visit France, and especially the larger cities like Paris or Lyon, and want to stay safe in the country.
Road signs can be misinterpreted easily to understand, especially for the visitors or tourists from Asia or UK who are used to steering the wheel on the other side of the vehicle. However, do take comfort that tourists aren’t the only ones who seem to have problems reading the road signs: the French do not know what’s going on either!
According to eParis.com, the authority website for French news, the incomprehensible signs might be the result of the almost 700 different road signs being used in France, which is a number that is still rising because of the ever increasing laws and regulations put in place. Apart from this, many drivers and motorists are never re-tested once they get their driving licence. This, on top of the ever changing and increasing number of rules and laws, causes a lack of awareness on the French roads, even for the French natives.
For example, would you know what this sign means? Most people would assume that there was a no change of lanes allowed or a dead end. But, that’s incorrect. What does it mean, then?
It actually signifies that drivers from a side road coming on to the main road have the right of way over the people that are already driving on the main road. Whether or not the drivers on the main road are willing to slow down for you remains a question, but when you are the one coming out of the side road on to the main road and cause an accident, you will most likely not be the one who gets filed with charges.
But again, just like the French language, there are many exceptions. Therefore it is very likely to first come across the road sign seen in the picture, and just a few minutes later across a road sign that gives drivers on the main road the right to be first. The sign describing this right is almost identical to the upper one, only it has no diagonal line across the middle. Hence, it is indeed very confusing…
So, for those who are planning to visit France and especially her bigger cities, it would come in very handy to learn the French road signs before you hit the road. Oh, and always pay attention to signs you come across.
Here are some of the common road signs to take note:
Blue sign with white lettering indicates a motorway
On entering a town or city. Reduce your speed to less than 50 km/h, unless otherwise indicated
End of trunk road
Trunk or priority road
Parking area with meters
Green signs indicate a national highway. White signs indicate local roads
The other traffic has priority and you must give way – these are often seen on roundabouts and mean you must ‘yield’ or give way to the other vehicles from the left or right