If you ever drive in France, you need to know this road rule. It’s some weird hangover from the past that sometimes causes confusion at roundabouts and often results in accidents. This yellow diamond with a black strike through it often appears at the start of a town, and for months I thought it had something to do with a change of speed limit. How wrong I was. This sign means that roads to the right have right of way over the main road — by default! That’s right, you can swing out of a side street and into a main road regardless of oncoming traffic and still have right of way. Whether anyone on the main road stops for you, however, is a different matter. At least one of my French friends in the past year has had an accident resulting from this road rule. Worse still, there seems to be little consistency country-wide over just how much weight the priority has at such intersections. In addition, most roads have road markings that dictate that the main road users have priority over the side streets. So, much like the French language, there are exceptions to the rule.
Add in the roundabout rule of giving way to the left and you’ve got a world of confusion. I’ve been motioned through at roundabouts by locals on the left who just don’t understand why I’m not following the default “give way to the right” rule. I don’t help matters: if they’re going to give me right of way, I’ll take it, even if it’s not mine to take.
Meanwhile, these plain yellow diamond signs are often placed at the end of villages, where the speed limit increases. Once you’re past this sign, the main road users have right of way over the side street users. At last — something that makes sense! Weirdly, however, most French drivers seem to barge on in past the give way signs and dotted lines on the on-ramp of faster roads, expecting the faster traffic to slow down while they cut off a car and slowly pick up speed. All you can do is sit back, brake and say “Bof” while doing your best shrug. May as well fit right in and embrace the local customs, eh?