Make sense of... Autoroutes and péages

France’s fast, safe motorway network is the largest in Europe after Germany

The French word autoroute literally means a road purpose-built for cars, allowing for speeds which in France are among the highest in Europe – up to 130kph (81mph), compared to 112kph (70mph) in the UK.

While the overall limit is 130kph, on some stretches it is reduced to 110kph, which also applies if there is rain, hail or snow, and the limit is 50kph in less than 50m visibility.

You should not go over 90kph if pulling a trailer or caravan.

There is also a minimum: you must not go less than 80kph in the fast lane and generally the law says you should not hinder others by going ‘abnormally slowly’ without a good reason.

An autoroute is defined by the fact the sides are separated by a central reservation, called in French le terre-plein, there is a hard shoulder (bande d’arrêt d’urgence) and no roads join it directly, only intersections with slip roads allowing you to build up speed to join the traffic, giving priority to cars on the road.

The first stretch opened ...

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