Driving in France – car signs

French Conduite Accompagnee stickerFor years, I’ve lived in France and been confused about a few signs on cars (and on roads, but we’ll save that for another time). I thought this black and white sign was a graphic version of ‘Baby on Board’ with a mother and a baby, or maybe a pregnant woman. I never looked closely enough to properly check. Turns out it’s a steering wheel rather than a baby.

So what does this sticker mean? The steering wheel clue has probably given it away. The text, if you speak French, has probably also given it away. I’m just not that observant. It actually means that the person driving is learning how to drive, and it’s known in France as conduite accompagnée or ‘accompanied driver’ in English. In other words, the driver is being yelled at in French by someone who already has a license to drive. However, there’s every chance that the person driving has a license already: it’s not obligatory to remove the sign when the learner driver stops driving.

French Disque A stickerNow here’s a tricky one. When I first moved to Annecy, I thought that perhaps this sticker was an A for Annecy. That would explain its popularity on so many cars, right? Wrong.

My next guess was a learner driver (remember, I thought the previous sticker was a pregnant woman), because the French word for the verb to learn is apprendre, which, of course, begins with an A. Sorted! But also wrong.

This sticker stands for apprenti which pretty much translates to ‘apprentice’ in English. Basically, when someone has finally jumped through the gigantic hoops required to get a license (including trick questions on the theory), this sticker must be displayed for either two years or three years, depending which French person you ask (there’s a 50/50 split amongst my French friends). Either way, it’s the equivalent of a the good old P plate I had to display when I got my license in Australia, and requires drivers to drive more slowly than the speed limit allows. I’ve yet to see any car with this sticker going at less than 10km over the speed limit, let alone that much under.

Although it’s not mandatory to know what these things mean (I managed to get through years of living in France with no clue about them), it’s handy to know what they are anyway. Otherwise, you might be wondering why so many people in Nice are fans of Annecy.


I'm a technical author, journalist and writer from Australia who has been living in Europe since 2000 and exploring the world from there. My passions are writing, snow sports and travel.

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3 comments on “Driving in France – car signs
  1. Haley says:

    I still have to take the driving test for my “patente” here in Italy… I am NOT looking forward to it.

  2. LeAnne says:

    Insightful post!

  3. C says:

    Your articles are really interesting and it’s always fun to know how foreigners are looking at you and to see all the stuffs which make no sense in your own country.
    You have to keep the “A” behind your car for 2 years if you were in “Conduite accompagnée” between 16 & 18 years old and 3 years if you get your license at 18.

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About me

Wendy Hollands writer in Annecy, France

I'm an experienced technical writer based in the French Alps. I enjoy learning French language nuances, winter sports and travel. Drop by wendyhollands.com, my other site.

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