Sunday, November 6, 2011

After You.   No, After You.

Now, I want you to pay attention, class, because this is going to be complicated. We are going to discuss the knotty question of la priorité à droite.

The idea is that, at any junction, any vehicle (and that includes the two wheeled, leg-powered variety) approaching from the right has priority, except when it doesn’t.

It doesn’t, when it has a sign telling it that it doesn’t. I’m glad we’ve got that cleared up. 

Now, supposing you are proceeding along at, say, 90 kph, on your largish sort of road, and there is another joining from the right. It’s not big, not small, but a useful sort of road to the people who live up that way. They use it regularly. In fact, there is a car approaching along it now. You would assume, you daredevil, you, that you have right of way because yours is the Big Road. But do you? Can you see the sign on the other road that says so? No, because there are trees or a hedge in the way. In fact, there are many such junctions, and you can’t actually see much of any of them, just at the critical point.

(Signage in France is a whole other problem: quite often you will miss your turning because the sign is there for people coming the other way. They don’t expect you to want to go to A from B, only from C, so they aren’t going to tell you B’ers when to turn. And as for deviations – take a map and a packet of sandwiches, because you are going to be abandoned halfway along the route.  But that is for another discussion).

You have to assume, in that case, that you don’t have priority, because if they do, they are entitled to take it, and saunter out in front of you at a critical moment. They, you see, have been told that they should not use excessive speed when entering onto another road. 

You will be delighted to know that really small country lanes do not have this right, so you will only have to be alert to every other sort of side turning.

Streets, cul-de-sacs, however small, can have the right of way over anything they join (unless they don’t). Your way may lead you across a dual carriageway, in which case one would devoutly hope that the sign makers had been diligent, and the road painters lavish with their white lines; but in case they haven’t, and you do therefore have right of way across the two lanes nearest you, you must stop in the middle, and think twice, and make sure that the other road users have spotted you.

If, however, you lose your nerve, and actually stop, even though there is nothing to tell you to do so, you must then behave as though there is: you must give way. It’s your own fault.

Roundabouts in general have the appropriate signs and rules: vehicles approaching from the left – that is, those already stuck on the roundabout and so in a panic about how to get off the darn thing – have priority, and you would need to be – well, a Frenchman, to ignore this.  We were crossing a small roundabout near a major retail outlet the other day: we clearly had the right to proceed, and the road on the right was definitely signposted with a triangular STOP sign. The driver we encountered, too closely for comfort, not only ignored the imperative but stared right at us as he did so. I was forced to make a gesture, which did not mean  “live long and prosper”. I was in the passenger seat, so he won’t have seen it, but I hope he felt the vibe.

Happy motoring!
©lms 2011

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