For 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.
Now 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.