Driving in France is often an entertaining event for us. Driving in my part of France is generally a pleasure after London, there’s hardly ever a traffic jam and we can drive for miles without even seeing another vehicle. However, there is one very strange aspect of driving in France that still astounds me – as soon as a Frenchman sees the UK registration plate he seems to consider it his absolute duty to overtake – no matter what the circumstances. Actually, I correct that statement, it’s not just a Frenchman that changes from normal, happy driving man to road-Rambo, its anyone French, be it a 90 year old man who can hardly see or a usually calm and lovely old lady – they all turn into maniacs behind the wheel.
We’ve been overtaken on hairpin bends, with a heavy vehicle goods convoy in front of us, on blind corners, roads with signs saying no overtaking and in the dark in heavy snow. Seriously, I don’t know what it is about overtaking and the French. And, in case you’re thinking that we drive around like a pair of wombles at 10 miles an hour – I assure you that is not the case.
I don’t know if it’s because they are genuinely all in a rush, if they just don’t like being behind a foreign car or if they don’t like being regulated. It has to be said that signs of authority do seem to turn some French people from being really nice, friendly, cultured people to wannabe anarchists. In the pretty town of Desvres in Pas-de-Calais, there’s an old church in the town centre with a big sign saying “defense d’uriner” – you, like me, might think that it was unnecessary to put a sign forbidding people to urinate up the wall of a church. However, what that sign appears to have achieved is to actually encourage such action – I’ve only been to the market there twice but on both occasions I witnessed a man relieving himself directly under the sign! Being dictated to = red rag to a bull – or rather a Frenchman.
French people can also take umbrage when the road rules are updated. Take Priorité à Droite for instance – a strange and frankly dangerous and crazy rule that allows drivers to enter a road from the right without stopping. This isn’t on all roads – only where the Priorité à Droite sign is displayed which actually makes it even more dangerous as it’s random. It appears to be a case of national pride and a test of will that any French driver should enter a road from a right hand turning without stopping or looking. This is the cause of many accidents and the French Government has been attempting to phase out Priorité à Droite. You wouldn’t know that though where I live – there are still hundreds of roads allowing Priorité à Droite. What we’ve found though, is that when the road sign is amended and Give Way signs are put up and lines painted in the road to indicate to the driver entering from a right hand road that priority is no longer his – he invariably ignores it because he doesn’t think it should have been done – it’s that red rag again!