French traffic sucks. This is not so much an opinion as it is a statement of fact, much like declaring that the earth is round, or that too much Justin Bieber will cause cerebral hemorrhaging. However, while it is true that traffic laws suffer a looser interpretation at the hands of French motorists than does a bible in the hands of a fundamentalist televangelist, this doesn’t mean that there aren’t some general guidelines. Here then are some tips for any other Americans that find themselves braving the French roadways:
The first thing you’ll notice is the faster pace. In an effort to cut down on speeding violations, the French have adopted a novel approach: that is that instead of laboring to eliminate speeders, which would be quite arduous, they have instead eliminated almost all posted speed limits, thereby solving the problem with plenty of time to go catch the soccer game and have a few drinks.
Another important thing to note is that in order to maintain the condition of their highways, the French government has imposed a tax upon the usage of turn signals. This is accomplished with a small chip attached to the steering column, keeping all other signaling methods (horn, emergency lights, brakes) free of charge. Whenever your vehicle is serviced, the data in this chip will then be downloaded and tallied, the charges assessed and appended to your bill and then forwarded to the proper agency. It is surely for this reason that it will be a rarity for you to see a French motorist use his turn signal.
Unlike America, where following distance is determined in fixed units (car lengths), the appropriate following distance here in France is expressed as an exponent of a subjective measurement, which is testicular girth. This directly results in those possessed of a less impressive anatomy following immediately behind the vehicle in front of them.
The use of the horn has an entirely different connotation here than it does in the U.S. where it is used to advise caution to other drivers. Here, the horn has become a complicated signaling device, the most frequent use of which is to express sympathy with drivers ahead of and around you who are helpless to ameliorate the bad driving conditions in which you have all found yourselves. It is courteous therefore to make liberal use of it whilst stuck in traffic jams.
Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, is this: the French highway system is not visually stimulating and in fact quickly becomes tedious, easily leading drivers into an altered, somnambulistic state of mind. It is the duty of every motorist to ensure the safety of the roads, therefore it is courteous and necessary to ensure that other drivers are in an alert state of mind. The most expedient way to do this is to help them increase their adrenaline levels, which is fortunately easily accomplished. The best way to do so is to merge directly (less than a meter is preferred) in front of the driver in need of assistance, whilst traveling at a speed slightly slower than that of the other driver. And fear not, this courtesy will be returned by other drivers.I hope this helps any of my friends that might find themselves driving through the country here, and I’ll be sure to add any other information you might find helpful at a later date.