An embarrassing road encounter

Ah, the confusion of French road signs! I am now feeling so embarrassed! Even after a couple of days after making my awful mistake, I am still embarrassed.

Last Saturday, I was taking Iona and Joe to a judo competition in Malestroit. The road is quite a long straight fast road. There were cars behind me. I vaguely remember a black Mondeo stopping at a side road wanting to get on to the main road to Malestoit and wondered if it was Emric’s parents as Emric goes to judo as well.

We arrived and whilst Iona and Joe were getting changed, and through the sea of parents I saw Emric’s mother. She didn’t look very happy. She approached me.

‘Not very nice that, rude in fact, don’t you know the code de la route? ( the French highway code): Priorité à droite?

Oh dear, help!

An unknown man behind me replied to Emric’s mother: ‘You must be the only person in Brittany who adheres to the priorité à droite rule ‘.

This did not help the situation.

She stomped off.

So, the question is: should we apply the priorité à droite rule or not? The overriding rule of the road in France is priorité à droite, which means you need to give way to traffic coming from your right. It is an archaic law dating back to the time of the horse and cart and for some unknown reason has never been repealed. It is true to say however that the French have spent thousands of millions of Euros to indicate that it does not apply in most circumstances, but as with any French law there are exceptions.

French road signs - yellow diamond with white border

Road sign showing this road has priority

Yellow diamond with a white border on French road signs

The Yellow diamond with a white border sign indicates that the priorité à droite does not apply to the road ahead. In short, the road you are travelling on has priority over traffic joining from the right (which, when you are travelling along a main road, makes sense to me).

When this exemption ceases, then another sign with the yellow diamond with a diagonal black line through it will be displayed.

French road markings with dotted and solid white lines

Although technically not a priorité à droite sign, they do in fact indicate that nobody has the right to cross them, and whereas many people have thought that these were just to indicate the side of the road, which of course they do, they also mean that, you have priority, which, if you think about it, is logical.

French road signs - white post with a red band

White post with a red band

White posts with a red band on the roadside in France

These are only used in a rural situation and indicate firstly that there is a turning to your right and that that road does not have the priorité à droite.

Some of these signs are not always obvious, and I am not even sure the average French driver is aware of their meaning.

I for one really don’t think that I am any the wiser, and I do hope that Emric’s mother will forgive my poor driving!

Editor’s note

French road signs: priorité à droite when entering a town We regularly drive through a small town called Ploufragan, in the Côtes-d’Armor département. As we enter the village, we are met with a sign telling us clearly that the Priorité à droite rule applies within the village. This is not unusual: very often, entering a town or village in Brittany (and all over France, we expect) will warn drivers of this rule.

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