The “priority to the right” rule on the roads of France is complicated and misunderstood by many. In this article, we’ll try and explain some of the principles and “don’t forgets” to help you whilst you are driving on the left-hand side of the French roads.
The most simple tip to remember and use is : When you are driving and unsure, slow down, look to the right if there is a vehicle coming towards GIVE WAY ! (You both end up stopped and looking at each other hesitantly) .
Every day in France there are accidents relating to “refusing the priority to the right” refus de priorité, and in most cases, if you’ve refused the priority then you’re at fault.
Although I’m not an expert in insurance, as far as I know, if you refuse a priority, you’ll be the person responsible for the accident. This can also result in a fine of 135 €, the loss of 4 points, 3 years suspension of your licence. Like it or not, the rule does make drivers slow down at any junction.
So let’s have a look at some examples of this very French rule…
Example 1 : A simple crossroad with priority to the right
This situation can be in a village, town or a country road and often you have not even seen a road sign informing you if there is a priority. In the above example, the red car n°1 which will want to drive straight ahead must give way to the green car n°3. In turn, the red car n°2 must give way to the red car n°1. The only car which has priority and can continue its route is the green car.
Example 2 : A crossroad with priority to the right
This situation can be in a village, town or a country road and often you have not even seen a road sign informing you if there is a priority. In the above example, the red car n°1 which will want to drive straight ahead must give way to the red car n°2. In turn, the red car n°2 must give way to the green car n°3. The only car which has priority here is the green one.
Example 3: A ‘Y’ junction.
Red car n°1 has just passed a “Give Way” sign, so at the next junction, it must give way to the right. Therefore the green cars n° 2 and 3 can continue on their routes.
Remember the road sign with a black cross in a red triangle means you must give way until further notice. The yellow diamond road sign means you have priority.
Example 4: The old fashioned roundabouts
There many roundabouts that still use the priority to the right rule, especially in urban areas.
When you approach such a roundabout, you do have the priority and continue your route, go anti-clockwise to approach and use your chosen exit. However, whilst you are going around you must give way to the right. In the diagram above, you can see that the red car n°1 which is going around, must give way to the green car n°3. Concerning green n°2, it can go on to the roundabout as there is traffic arriving from the right.
Famous places such as the Arc de Triomphe in the centre of Paris is a good example. If you consider that the Arc de Triomphe is multi-lane, you can imagine the stress if you’re doing this for the first time.
Example 5: The new roundabouts
Most modern-day roundabouts give priority to the vehicle which is already on the roundabout. In the above diagram the green car n°1 has priority, no°2 can access the roundabout, whilst the red car n°3 must give way to the left. So here we can talk about a “priority to the left”.
Other situations where you would apply the priority to the right rule:
- At any road junction where the traffic lights are not functioning and unless otherwise indicated you would give way to traffic coming from the right.