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Is it illegal to make hands-free phone calls while driving in France?

Four-fifths of people in France say they use their phone to carry out a task while driving, a 2022 poll shows

We look at the laws around making phone calls while driving, including using bluetooth headsets Pic: Anetlanda / Shutterstock

Reader question: My wife and I are UK based but spend several months a year in our French second home.  If a mobile phone rings whilst we are driving (either in France or the UK) the passenger answers the call which is diverted through our car loudspeaker so both of us can hear the person calling. Is it illegal in France for both the driver and passenger to hear the caller talk through our car loudspeaker and then respond using the car microphone? 

It is not illegal to speak on the phone while driving if you are using a hands-free device that goes through your car’s speaker or some other loudspeaker device. 

However, a spokesman for the road safety department of France’s interior ministry said that it is recommended only to do so in urgent / emergency situations as calls can distract the driver. 

You can still face a fine if you are making a call through this system and the police notice that you are distracted. 

A passenger in your car can speak using a hands-free device if they so wish. 

Otherwise, using any earpiece or headphones to call while driving is illegal and is classed as a grade four offence, meaning you can be fined €135 and lose three points on your licence. This law applies to drivers of any vehicles, including motorbikes, bikes, electric scooters, etc. 

The government spokesperson gave the following advice to people dealing with phone calls while driving:

  • Put your phone on silent or do not disturb mode
  • If you know that you have an important phone call to make, do it before you start driving
  • If your phone rings, let a passenger answer it
  • Plan a pause; stop at a safe and appropriate place to make a phone call
  • Place your phone in a place where you cannot hear it or see it while driving or turn it off

To find out more about the laws relating to driving and phoning, see the government’s information page here

Read more: French driver fined €135 as hearing aid mistaken for hands-free gadget

One in two people in France phone while driving

More than half (52%) of people surveyed in France use their phone to call while driving, a  2022 study by Axa Prevention, an association supporting health, safety and well-being that is linked to Axa insurance company, found.

In total, 80% of people polled used their phones to carry out some sort of task while driving. 

The results are representative and based on a study of 2,200 people. 

It found that:

  • 52% of people surveyed make phone calls (up 8% from 2021)
  • 45% programme their GPS (up 12% from 2021)
  • 34% read or write text messages (up 10% from 2021)
  • 24% check their notifications (up 11% from 2021)
  • 8% publish stories on social media
  • 15% send emails
  • 6% participate in work meetings

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