Monday, 22 November 2010

Defensive driving à la française

When my high school driver's ed teacher told us about "defensive driving", I thought the worst I would ever face was the typical Jersey driver or maybe a Masshole here or there. But Mr. Whateverhisnamewas could never have prepared even the most defensive Jersey driver - which I'm not - for driving in France.

First, there was the priority to the right. Imagine your typical American T-stop. Now replace that with a interesection with no signs. In France, the person on the right has the priority. So you have to do a quick check of the hands and if you happen to be on the left, you have to let the person on your right go. The reasoning for this - or so I've heard - is twofold: to slow down people on the main road and to allow the cars from the smaller road to actually be able to pull out.

Then there are the round abouts, traffic circles, rotaries. Before coming to France, the only rotary I ever knew was the one outside the prison in Concord, Massachusetts. And that was scary enough. Priority to the right doesn't apply here...Traffic circles are common in France in places where you would find a traffic light in the US. The most famous one is around the Arc de Triomphe in Paris; but here in Lille we have what my driving instructor called le rond point de la mort. Yes, my driving instructor actually called it "the traffic circle of death". Nice. They exist to slow down traffic, or so I've been told, because the French cannot control themselves from breaking rules, speeding, and not respecting other drivers.

Last week, the code de la route changed again. Although I'm happy that bikes may now turn right on red (at certain mayor-approved intersections where signs have been put up), I really wonder about the new pedestrian law. As of last Thursday, pedestrians may now cross the street anywhere if there is no crosswalk within 50m. And if they show signs of wanting to cross anywhere, the drivers have to stop! It was bad enough when no such law existed, but now people can do whatever they want. (And yes, I do see the upside to this which is cars must actually stop for you when you cross a street.)

See this article in French to recap the new law.

It would be really nice if the powers that be could spend their time, I don't know, fighting dog poop or public urination or parking on sidewalks...but if you read into the text, you see that there are actually rules that allow people to park on the sidewalk in certain cases.

I'll never understand this country.

2 comments:

Emmy said...

eek. just eek. It's hard enough crossing the road at a zebra crossing. I'm not going to risk it anywhere else. and I totally agree about using money to fight the crotte or pee pee street activity.

Also, just saw you're reading eat pray love like me. It's a slow one too for me. I get train time on Friday though, maybe I'll get into it then!

Reb said...

Emmy, I know the driving rules here are scary! Good luck to us all!

Eat Pray Love is VERY slow. But I find it to be just enough right now. I read a chapter a night before I go to bed. I've read other books recently that keep me reading til 1am so it's a nice change (and lets me sleep).

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