Can anyone explain why policing of speeding, road safety and dangerous driving are such low priorities in France?

We have been living in France for two years this month and one of the things that really annoys me about living here is the appalling level of driving. We are in the Charente at the moment and the standard of driving is very poor. Few of the locals appear to give any regard to speed limits through hamlets and villages and speeding and tailgating on the roads is widespread. So it seems is dangerous overtaking, where drivers are putting other drivers lives at risk!!

We had an incident last week when driving to Limoges airport to pick up a visiting friend. We were driving on that horrible section of the N145 after Romazieres but before the dual carriageway section. I was driving up to the brow of a hill and as I came over the top there was a woman hurtling towards us on our side of the road blindly overtaking several lorries in one go!! If I had not braked hard she would have hit us before pulling back into her lane. I was incensed and if we had not been heading for the airport I would have turned the car round and followed her and when she stopped, given her an expletive laden piece of my mind!

What I want to know is why this sort of behaviour so widely tolerated by the authorities in France? I have never seen a Police patrol car on a French road or indeed a motorway (what do they do in rural areas???)? Fixed speed cameras are few and far between and even drink drivers are still allowed to drive after conviction (insane)???

If the roads here were as crowded as the UK it would be absolute carnage!! It really riles me that nothing is being done and I am sick to death of French motorists tailgating me because I slow to 50KPH in a 50KPH zone. The French government are missing a trick. They could raise a fortune by introducing nationwide (hidden) speed cameras. Do they even have road safety campaigns?

I’m sorry for my rant but it is truly shocking that so little is being done. One final thought! In a country where everything progresses at the speed of a retreating glacier, why do so many French drivers think they are Alain Prost?

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Quiet simply they don’t care! Road safety is not a priority whereas breaking the rules (any rules!) is a national pastime verging on an obsession. (take a look at Système D).

Pointless fighting against it - just take extra care and be prepared to be 100% blamed as the cause of any accident you’re involved in - simply because you’re a foreigner.

I sound cynical don’t I ?!! :yum:

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I suppose it depends on where you are - where I live there are many fixed cameras, mobile gendarmes here and there with speed guns at least once a week in a 40ish km radius. I agree some people drive appallingly, I get to work some mornings with palpitations and thanking my lucky stars I’m still alive after being missed by vehicles coming at me on the wrong side of the road, overtaking where they can’t see.

HOWEVER as you have lived here for only two years you may not realise that conditions on the road have actually markedly improved especially in terms of mortality: have a look at wikipedia ‘accidents de la route en France’ which has all the stats in digestible form.


One of the best low cost gadgets I bought a couple of years ago was a dash-cam - the one below. It used to be available on Amazon France (couldn’t find it today) but there are loads of others.

I’ve caught some amazing moments on camera and even offered up copies of incidents to ‘victims’ of idiots in the past. Always gratefully accepted!

Obviously it means I’ve got to be a good boy too! :slight_smile:

I can’t really believe what I’m reading. I live in Niort, that is to say not far from Limoges, and people here drive quite carefully. I’ve lived in Nantes and Lille, and it was quite the same. People there drove well and respectfully. Plus, no offense but you actually have no real idea of what you’re talking about since the government does a lot for the security on the roads (and it’s been a real concern for about 20 years now: It is very rare you will find anyone driving faster than 130km/hour on highways for exemple. In a nutshell, it is far from being a low priority and people in general take it seriously.
However, France has the biggest secondary road network in Europe (985 000km), which by definition, are more accident-prone. Plus the ratio between Policemen and population is the same as in any other european countries, but on a very spread-out territory. Those are rational explanations you might want to take into consideration to understand the situation more clearly.
On a personnal note, I’ve been taking my car to go to work everyday for the last 3 years and never have I been scared or worse.
@ Simon Armstrong: You don’t sound cynical but ignorant and narrow-minded. It always surprises me how people who live in a different country can be so narrow-minded and judgemental. I’ve lived in the US for 2 years and never have I had the need to criticize this place. Quite the opposite actually. I was glad to discover another country, culture, language, some new people. I’m not saying everything was perfect, but I put it in perspective since it isn’t perfect anywhere, not in France, not in the US, not in England…
Clichés are just a step away from racism, be careful.


@Louis Now then Louis - no need to be rude. I’m simply relaying my experiences and views after having lived in France for nearly 12 years. It’s a shame that this has rattled you but, nevertheless I respect your views.

A coupe of issues though. In this part of the world - near Toulouse - we get huge amounts of people speeding - in fact we have overhead road signs that identify the offenders by displaying their car registrations and telling them they are going too fast. I rarely see police patrol cars on the main autoroutes in France - if ever. Certainly not at lunchtime or when it’s raining! :slight_smile:

Your closing comment on racism - way off the mark. I’m exactly the same race as my French neighbours and my French family. Be careful - just a tip Louis :slight_smile:


I take the RD 14 in Dordogne every day and it is an accident black spot, fatalities every year. Maybe it’s a lot quieter near Limoges, it has certainly seemed so every time I’ve been in that neck of the woods, which is admittedly not that often. If you had seen as many people being cut out of their flattened upside down cars on the way to work as I have you might be less sanguine.

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Wow Louis, something has touched a nerve with you hasn’t it?

I don’t think Simon sounds ignorant and narrow minded. I have only lived in France for two years but compared to the UK the general standard of driving is very poor here. Yes there are people who speed in the UK and drive dangerously, but it is not as widespread as here in the Charente for example. Why do so many French drivers feels the need to tailgate? What’s with the pulling up inches behind you on a dual carriageway before overtaking?

I was more interested in finding out why nothing substantial is being done by the French government?

Very little seems to be happening to counteract the problems? I have not seen one patrol car on the motorway in two years of living here? I have seen about two speed traps in two years of living here. In the UK, most villages/towns have traffic calming and speed cameras and there is widespread surveillance on the motorways as well as patrol cars. As an aside, what sort of crazy messed up law is it that allows convicted drink drivers to still drive? You can still kill someone even if you drive one of those crap miniature cars. If we stay living here, then I will have to learn to tolerate the idiots, as it seems the French government and Police force have little appetite for making inroads into the problem.


Of course something has touched a nerve, how could it be otherwise whon one reads something like that? :

It’s insulting, not only because of what it says but also and especially because it could’nt be further from the truth. If you don’t want people to be rude, you should start by not being it yourself. And I wasn’t being rude but descriptive.
To get back to the topic, Toulouse isn’t home to the worst dirvers of the worls, I mean seriously. Have you been to New York or Chicago lately? It’s like hell if you’re a pedestrian over there.
Plus I still don’t see what you mean Paul, Tailgate?! pulling up?! two things, either you were very unlucky in your driving experience or you’ve been focusing on the few bad experiences you’ve had and generalised them.

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Weekend before last, one of our local Radiologists was returning to the valleys from a night out in Toulouse with his wife. She was driving because he’d had a couple and she doesn’t drink - never has. They had a head on collision with white van man (courier company) who was overtaking on a bend. She is now a paraplegic and will be for the rest of her life, he escaped (physically) with a few scratches. He hasn’t been able to go back to their home - can’t face it. He retired in June.

As far as the national pastime of tailgating goes - I’ve got a sticker in the rear window of my car: Plus Vous Approchez, Plus Je Ralentis - probably makes no difference but makes me feel better!

@Louis Some estimated populations: Toulouse 0.5m , Chicago 3m, New York 8.5m - all wonderful cities.

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Some interesting and sobering replies in this thread. I think where we currently live is something of a rural backwater and one of France’s poorer departments, so as it’s mainly very rural (and poor) then maybe road safety is not seen as a priority? Only last week however, a speed hump was installed in our local picturesque village of Verteuil Sur Charente as the 50 KPH limit is widely ignored by the locals. Within a day there were huge skid marks on the road where someone had approached the hump (on a blind bend) and obviously braked very hard before going over the hump!!

If we drive at the correct speed through villages in this area be it 50KPH or 70KPH limit we are always tailgated by frustrated French drivers, who seem to have no comprehension of why we have slowed down? It’s not much better if we stick to the 90KPH limit on main roads as there is always somebody desperately trying to overtake. Maybe the 90KPH limit is seen as advisory? Gonna get me one of those stickers I think!!


Right with you Paul - same thing down here in the Ariege. Most of our speed humps and the area around them are covered with tyre marks and, on some, huge chunks of road surface have been dislodged.

The other issue I see on a regular basis is people not stopping at STOP signs - they’re just not used to it poor dears. This often results in a shunt when someone does actually stop at a STOP sign - takes them by surprise !!

You mentioned the Sans Permis cars earlier. To be honest I can’t even go there - the concept is so off the wall that I can’t get my head around it. I’ve has so many ‘brick-wall’ discussions about the workings of Sans Permis ‘arrangements’ that I’ve given up!!

I can’t agree with the generalisation of the original post. I do see bad driving and driving that ignores the law but that is rare. Most of the driving that I experience is where drivers stick religiously to the speed limits. As for temporary speed cameras there are plenty out and about on the roads in my area. I also see police cars on the road. They may not be the in your face Jam Sandwiches used by the UK police but they are there. Many of the towns and villages in my area have the signs that show your speed as you approach and they seem to have a very positive effect. Accidents do happen but they are not particular to France, I occasionally follow links to the local paper from the part of the UK I grew up in and I am shocked by the number of serious accidents reported there every time I look. Road safety has a very high priority in France and as mentioned above the casualty figures are falling. I cycle and motorcycle a lot and feel safer on the roads in France than I ever have in other country.

I can’t believe some of the comments to this post. Have any of you driven in South East England recently ? They are some of the most ignorant, selfish drivers i’ve ever seen. French drivers are no better or worse than drivers anywhere else in Europe. Speed limits, give way signs etc are routinely ignored all over Europe. Also in the very few incidents i have had contact with the French Police/Gendarmerie, i have found them to be nothing other than courteous and helpful. Many drivers get frustrated with foreign drivers, because they don’t bother to find out about local laws, especially in villages. For instance, if a minor road has no give way/stop lines in a village, they have the right of way over the traffic on the major road. Get used to it. It’s the law in parts of France, and your job to find out about it, if you live here or visit France. It’s not the job of the French to chase after us and inform us. If you want to find out about a subject, ask your local Police/Gendarmes, the Marie or your neighbour. Tailgating also happens everywhere. If you paint yourself as the victim because you are a foreigner, then you will continue to feel like a victim. Just drive properly, and let the tailgater take his/her chances. Then there are motorcyclists. French and Spanish drivers, are far more aware of two wheeled traffic than anywhere else in Europe, and they almost always give them room, and let them through traffic jams etc. Try doing that in England, and you will be blocked or worse. There is a very good reason that there are so few traffic Police. There is’nt enough money. It costs a lot of money to train and equip traffic Police, which is why there are now only two traffic Police stations in Sussex for instance, and no motorway Police. France is no different. It is quite simply too expensive. I’ve seen a few incidents of bad driving, in the three years plus i’ve lived here, but no worse than anywhere else, and certainly nowhere near as many as during the two weeks i was in Sussex. For the French government and the Police, it is NOT a case of low priorities, it is purely a case of not enough money, and it will get worse.

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I have posted a video on You tube Yesterday of a lunatic steering his car with his FEET…flipped me the “Bird” so we flipped him our Dash Cam … Twat of the Day is his video Title ! I need every sense available to drive here. Got 4 broken ribs in February thanks to a Learner driver passing a light which turned to amber so the “Instructor” shouted at her to stop. Which she did over a metre over the line . The attending police were totally with my position …hopeless driving skills here , must agree .


I’m sort of with Louis on this:

Apart from tail-gating which seems the
norm, I find that rural driving standards in the Dordogne have changed
dramatically in the 17 years I’ve been here.

In fact my main gripe, - & I was
wondering if the original poster fell into this category, - Is tourists driving
ridiculously slow.

I’m of the firm opinion that if the
limit is 90, & it is safe to proceed at 90, it is unfair & potentially
accident causing, - to drive a lot slower than this.

We have lived rural in France for almost a year and have experienced much of what is described above. The narrow country roads can be particularly dangerous. It’s as if the oncoming cars are surprised every time they see another motorist. We drive very carefully (and always have) or would be dead by now. Overtaking on blind bends, tailgating, speeding, and misleading (if any) indicating all add to quite a stressful journey just to the local Boulangerie.
We don’t however encounter the aggression and rudeness we did in England, on the roads or otherwise. It seems as if people simply continue to drive as they did before there were more than just a few locals on the roads. I think the dashboard camera might be a good idea, just in case !

We all have those stories! I was recently driving in a 50k limit town road, up hill, when a very large black 4x4 loomed into the rear view mirror and then proceeded to overtake. There was just enough road left for him to do it if he floored the throttle.

It was not until he began to pass that I spotted he was towing a very large rigid inflatable boat on a huge double axle trailer!

I have just bought a new car to which I have fitted a dash cam. It might just hep my argument if I come across an oncoming vehicle on my side of the road.

Isn’t it funny how some people compare driving standards in France with those in other countries - as if it is some kind of ‘defence’. Like - trying to absolve dreadful driving by pointing to where it may be even worse.

I live in France so really couldn’t care less about how people drive elsewhere - they’re unlikely to kill me!


Hi Peter. No we don’t fall into that category. We live here and are not tourists! We drive at the speed limit on main roads when conditions are safe to do so (90KPH) and get angry when tailgated by French drivers who feel it is their right to overtake and exceed the speed limit, often overtaking in dangerous situations, thus putting our lives at risk.I appreciate that the roads are much quieter here than most of the UK, so maybe the locals gamble on the fact there is nothing likely to be coming in the other direction? One day that gamble will fail!