• Minor problems are fixed by the road side
  • For more serious problems, the breakdown service operator will tow the vehicle to     the garage
  • Breakdown call-out and tow-in fees are set by the French government.

What to do if you do breakdown?

Pull over in a safe place (if possible) and activate your hazard warning.

You MUST use your warning Triangle and stand safely away from the vehicle in your vest and behind the barrier if there is one. Preferably stand back about 50 – 100 meters back from your car so that other drivers have some warning and time to slow down.

In France, the motorways are privately owned. The French law states that the only people authorised to send assistance on the French motorway is the French police.

There is four ways to contact them:
1. Press the button on those emergency orange SOS boxes (one every 2 km)
2. Ring 112 from your mobile (European Emergency Freephone number).
3. Get the staff working on service areas to call them for you (if you don’t speak French for example).
4. Get the staff patrolling along the motorway to do it for you (if they spot you while you are on the hard shoulder, they will offer their help).

Of course the question that often comes to your mind is: « Am I going to pay for this? » Most of the time, no. The breakdown services know that to simplify the situation, they have to cooperate with roadside assistance companies.

How do I get the breakdown service to pay for me?

You need to contact your breakdown assistance call center with the number indicated in your policy document (green card). An Incident Manager will open a file and will tell you to contact the motorway services as explained before. They will then ask you to call them back once the breakdown service is on the spot or once you are at the garage. It is during this call back that the breakdown assistance will establish who the breakdown service is and will guarantee the payment for you (once your cover is duly checked of course).

If you are asked to pay, ask the garage to provide an invoice and send it to the breakdown assistance call center or send it to us.

Q) I don’t speak French, will they speak English if I ring 112 or request assistance from the SOS boxes?
A) They will probably get by and are used to foreign people breaking down on the motorways. Anyway, it is always good to tell them in French « Je suis en panne » which means « I have a breakdown ». « Jay sweez on pan » phonetically speaking.

Q) I’m really not comfortable with speaking to them; can’t the breakdown assistance call center do it for me?
A) Most of the time no. When you ring 112 or request assistance from the SOS boxes, you are redirected to the closest motorway police station who will send the breakdown service on duty in this area. If you are on a service station with a shop, the incident manager can speak to one of the staff member there and ask them to send you assistance. The same goes if a motorway patrol stops near your vehicle and offers help.

Q) I am on the hard shoulder, therefore I am not on the motorway, do I need to ring 112?
A) Yes, as long as you haven’t gone on another road, you are on the motorway. This includes service stations, rest areas, tollbooths and slip roads to go in and out.

Q) I didn’t pass through a tollbooth, am I on the motorway?
A) In some places in France, the motorways are free, but it is still the motorway, the same rules apply.

Q) I am not sure I am on a motorway; how can I be sure?
A) French motorways are recognisable by their name which is « A » followed by one to three digits.

  1. Q) I am sure I’m not on the motorway, but the breakdown assistance still asks me to call 112, is it normal?
    A) There are a few speedways (mostly « N » roads) in France where the same rules apply. Your breakdown assistance call center will know them by ringing its closest provider who will refuse to go there, being not authorised by the law to intervene. E.g.: The RN 10 from Poitiers to Bordeaux (going through Ruffec and Angouleme) is classed as a motorway in some parts.

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