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:
You use the lights that help you best to see and to be seen without bothering others.
- 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 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
...at dusk and dawn because it's harder to see then
Driving In Bad Weather
|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
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.
|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.