How long do you need to stop at a stop sign?

I’ve read conflicting things, mostly in the 3-5 second range. One time we were chatting with a man who said he’d been pulled over by police because he didn’t stop long enough at a sign. It’s typical of our marriage that I remember that he said it should have been 10 seconds and my husband remembers 3 seconds.

For years I’ve been telling my husband that U-turns are not allowed in France, as he makes another U-turn. Obviously my say-so isn’t enough to convince him. But if I were to tell him that Survive France is unanimous in saying we have to stop for x seconds at a sign, that might carry some weight.

I know that unanimity is unlikely unless you’ve all taken French driver training, but I’m willing to go by majority vote, as long as you all say it’s more than 3 seconds.

Not stopping for long enough at a stop cost me 90€ and 4 points so I think you definitely need to think more along the lines of 10 rather than 3 seconds. I had stopped for about 4, had to do a hill start to pull away but “it wasn’t long enough and anyway there was 1 of me and 2 of them”.

Thank you, Veronique. Now we are two against one.

Madame Wood was taught to use the time it takes to say “un crocodile, deux crocodiles”! Once you have come to a complete stop at the line. It is not acceptable to stop a few metres from the line to let a pedestrian cross but you must then move up to the line, stop, and give it the full two crocodiles.:blush:

(I use alligators just to be on the safe side):laughing:


I recall a thread from AngloInfo about this very subject (8 years ago) and have found the reference here.
The OP was told 15 seconds! One of the first resposes in the thread was from me!!

I doubt there is ‘specified’ period of time. You can wait 10 minutes but if you pull out and collide with someone, the length of time is then immaterial.
Think back to the days when you were learning to drive. Your instructor would have insisted that, at a stop sign, you stop. Set the handbrake and place the car in neutral. Look (in France) left, look right, look left again and if the road is clear, set the gear you intend to move off in, release the handbrake and voilà! off you go. However long that takes is the correct amount of time to be stationery at at a stop sign.

I think that advice still stands good today.


Just refreshing my memory of that thread and couldn’t stop laughing at this post by mrben

My hideous mother in law came over for a visit and was stopped and fined by the gendarmes for failing to stop. She insisted that she had and as she has never been wrong in her pointless existance proceeded to argue her point. Her foul face and tongue did not sway these sturdy motorbike cops and although inside I was hoping that they would arrest her and lock her up with a butch lesbian for the night sadly for the first time in her worthless life she backed down and paid up ( well henpecked hubby did )
:rofl: :rofl: :rofl: :rofl:
I wonder if mrben is still around and now on SF :face_with_monocle:


The trouble is that, whatever the law says, the answer is “long enough that any gendarme observing you accepts that you have stopped”.

The post that Graham quoted does give good advice - but an experienced driver could certainly pull up, pop the transmission into neutral, engage the parking brake, check up & down twice, select a forward gear and pull off in much less than 10 seconds. Not least because some of these actions will occur in parallel.

My only ever driving offence was with a stop sign in France. The Gendarme cheekily said but you are English and stop is an English word so I assume you understand what it means?

To which I replied Yes and I assume it has been put here unnecessarily where one can clearly see in both directions just to make money. :money_mouth_face:

Ended up with a 22 euro fine but he let me off the points as I still had a UK driving licence. :wink:

Needless to say, ever since then I always stop at at a stop sign, for about 3/4 seconds.

There was a quiz question recently on uk prog asking what is the only octagonal sided road sign? I didn’t know the answer but I now observe that French stop signs are also octagonal.
This morning I tried un crocodile, deux crocodiles, not long enough for me.

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:laughing: I’m a “Mississippi” kinda gal!

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One thing about putting your handbrake on is that you will then take your foot off the footbrake and your brake lights will be off for a longer period than otherwise. Which, depending on the position of a watching Gendarme, might make the difference.

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The reason for stop signs being diagonal is that the top edge is still discernibly flat when covered by snow; So no excuses for not stopping at a stop sign during a snow blizzard.

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When I stop for a STOP, I brake until the car stops, literally, then check both ways, lift my foot off the brake and gently press on the accelerator. I checked this morning - about 2 crocodiles, but you can feel the car hunker- down in stop mode and then rise up in “go” :hugs:

Here’s an interesting article about Paris

I think the answer to the "How long? " question should be “as long as is necessary for you, the driver, to be wholly sure that the road is clear in both directions, and that all the other road conditions are such that you can safely proceed beyond the stop line marked on the road surface, before you move off”, or the equivalent avis from the gendarmerie :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:.

And if you think that’s four seconds or four name-your-own-favourite-endangered-species, “you’re cruisin’ for a bruisin’ squire” (or the French equivalent of course) . :warning::skull_and_crossbones::smiley:

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Thanks Dan,
Your post reminded me of this advert from the late seventies. The 2 second rule.
Anyone else remember it?


There is a stop sign near me , where you could very adequately assess the situation in four seconds or less but we tend to count to five in case of a sneaky gendarme . We don’t know why it’s a stop at that particular place, but we suspect that someone of importance may live down there

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Many stop signs are unfortunately placed where they are of no apparent practical use, except maybe to fill the coffers perhaps? :shushing_face: ( don’t tell anyone I said that)


Actually Tracey, that has not been my experience as, in France, I have found there to be an underlying reason - not always initially apparent - for the placement of traffic restrictions.
Maybe a high accident rate at that location (night or day). The same applies in regard to speed limits.