Jeff Steiner's Americans in France.
Resource for people that would like to live or travel in France.

Americans in France

Guide Home

About the Exam



Driving Terms






Parking Related

Right of Way

Roads & Streets




Special Conditions

Traffic Lights

Vehicle Code


Special Driving Conditions

Driving At Night

Anal Retentive Rules

Here are some highly anal retentive rules from the official book (repeated here only because they could show up in the test):
  • Have spare headlight bulbs in your car in case a headlight blows while you're driving
  • Twice a year have a garage adjust your headlights


First, some critical vocabulary:
  • Feux de position = Parking lights
  • Feux de croisement = Low beams (literally, lights of crossing)
  • Feux de route = Phares = High beams (literally, lights of the road)
You use the lights that help you best to see and to be seen without bothering others.
You are expected to drive with your bright lights on as a default. Of course, when you're crossing someone coming the other way, following someone, or in the city, you use the low beams. In fact, when you pass someone, there are yet more anal retentive rules about exactly how to do it: you switch to high beams the second you're side-by-side with the car you're passing, and they in turn switch from high to low beams.
If someone following you has their high beams on, you are authorized to slow down to encourage them to pass you. (Isn't that nice of the French government?) If you are crossing someone who leaves their brights on, you are authorized to flash your brights at them (called "faire un appel de phare").
NOTE: The book specifically mentions that if your car permits, you may have both the high and low beams on at the same time. However, the practice tests (which we presume are similar to the real thing) assume only one can be on at a time. If you get a question that asks what lights to have on and the answer in your mind is 'high beams', make sure you also select parking lights, even though it is physically impossible to turn on the high (or low) beams wthout also having the parking lights on. But DON'T select low beams or you'll get it wrong (despite what the official book says).
In a well-lit city, you are (inexplicably) allowed to drive around with parking lights and no low or high beams. In a well-lit country road, you are allowed to drive with low beams instead of high beams.


You should adapt your speed to the visbility. You are supposed to slow down...
...when you switch from high to low beams
...when you change from a well-lit area to one that is not well-lit dusk and dawn because it's harder to see then

Driving In Bad Weather

Bad Visibility

When the visibility is reduced because of rain, fog or snow, you use low beams. That said, you are still allowed to drive in the city with only parking lights if the visibility is sufficient.
FOG LIGHTS: You can turn on your front fog lights (feux de brouillard avant) in fog, snow or rain -- basically, in any type of bad weather. Back fog lights (feux de brouillard arrière) may be turned on in fog and snow, but not rain. This, of course, assumes your car can separate the two. For the driving test, you CAN separate the two.


The official books lists lots of things an adult driver already knows:
  • Roads are slickest at the beginning of a rain. You should try to avoid water puddles because they (a) could be hiding a pothole, and (b) they force the wheel that hits them to brake, which could cause you to swerve
  • Rain doubles the braking distance
  • Water on the road means there's a risk of aquaplaning (where the tires glide over the water and don't touch the road)
  • Your windshield should be clean to maximize visibility
  • Your windhsield wipers should be changed regularly (preferably before winter)
  • Make sure you have plenty of squirter fluid


It is important to see and to be seen. Use your low beams in fog, especially if the visibility is less than 150 m. If you have front fog lights, you can use them (with or instead of low beams) and leave them on even when you're passing or crossing another car. If your car has rear fog lights, you can turn them on to make your car more visible. You must remember to turn them off when visibility improves because they're blinding to the drivers behind you.
You must adjust your speed based on the visibility. If visbility is less than 50 m, the speed limit drops to 50 km/hr. When following another car, leave lots of extra room between you. Do not pass anyone unless you're on a one-way road.

Snow & Ice

In heavy snow, traction is very poor. Reduce your speed to half and leave extra space between you and the other cars. There are places where snow chains are recommended or obligatory, and signs will tell you so.
The appearance of ice slicks does not depend solely on the temperature, but also on the temperature of the ground and the humidity in the air. To have better traction, you can put studded tires on your car. They are authorized from the Saturday before 11-Nov through the last Sunday in March. With studs, you cannot travel faster than 90 km/hr and you have to display a special symbol in the back of the car. But this is all irrelevant because studded tires are no longer made. Basically, if there are ice slicks on the road, you should try to stay off the road.

High Winds

When the wind blows across the road, you risk your car being pushed around by it. This can be caused by wind or by the passing of large trucks. When passing motorcycles or bicycles in a windy situation, leave extra room because they're being pushed around, too. In areas where high winds occur frequently, the sign at right warns you. There may or may not also be an actual windsock as well.