Manners on French motorways

April 6, 2010

The thought of a motorway jaunt to the south of France last week brought me out in a cold sweat as all kinds of potentially stressful situations raced through my mind – our daughter getting sick in the car, short-fused French divers ranting and raving, overzealous gendarmes and getting lost on the Périphérique in Paris. The reality was surprisingly quite the opposite; driving in France was an unexpected joy and got me thinking “why can’t we all drive like the French?”.

As soon as a car overtakes you in France it almost slices off your front wing as it moves back into the slow lane. Contrast that with the M25 where a spot in the middle lane is treated as an extension of a driver’s property, something not to be given up without a fight. It’s this lack of spatial awareness and care for others that makes driving in the UK so tiresome.  There are even websites dedicated to “middle lane morons”, as they are described. The art of driving on a motorway is lost on us over here; we just don’t know how to use them properly.

Driving along the A71/75 from Paris through the Massif Central is one of the most leisurely and relaxing routes I’ve ever taken, with no traffic for 50km stretches at a time and sights such as the Millau Viaduct and Garabit Viaduct adding to the spectacular mountain scenery. It’s also the only motorway I’ve ever driven with a 50km limit on the bends downhill, such are the drops in elevation. If you are heading to the south of France and have time on your hands and would rather not be packed into a Ryanair 737 to the likes of Carcassonne or Béziers, it’s the only way to travel. Ian Bradley.