Much as we may love France and many of the French we’ve met, it has to be said that they are not the world’s greatest drivers. They believe they are, of course, as is evidenced by the fact that they all think they are Alain Prost. Most French drivers will bust a gasket trying to overtake anyone who happens to be in front. They don’t necessarily want to go much faster than the leading car but they simply have to be in front. Their overtaking manoeuvres are frequently carried out approaching a blind bend, just as if they were on a racing circuit with no opposing traffic flow. The reason they mostly seem to get away with this lunacy is that the traffic density on France’s roads is very low and there often is no opposing traffic flow. Not always, though.
During our two day journey back from the south of the country to the north we passed a couple of interesting incidents. One was a very fresh one on our final autoroute journey to Calais for the ferry. A camper van was on the hard-shoulder (la bande d’urgence) with its offside rear quarter modified to the point of disintegration. A car was sideways in the outside lane with its nearside front quarter similarly seriously modified. We surmised that the camper van had, perhaps, failed to check its mirrors sufficiently, not seen the car approaching to overtake, and had pulled out and creamed it. It’s only a guess but it made it an understandable, if not forgivable, incident. After a minor delay waiting for a lorry to pick its way through the debris scattered around on the remaining mostly-clear lane, we continued.
The previous day we had seen something entirely incomprehensible, however. We were following some sort of patrol vehicle along a perfectly straight, as built by the Romans, two lane road heading north towards Chartres. Suddenly, the patrol vehicle turned on its Cyclops lamps and the message ”en service” appeared on its rear-mounted message board – very clever. Eventually the van approached a number of stationary cars on the southbound lane and a lady, standing beside the road, began gesticulating wildly into the adjacent low-lying farm field. There, completely inverted, lay a car on its roof. The nearest bends were about two miles in either direction. How does anyone contrive to throw a car off a perfectly straight road such that it flips onto its roof? It may have been a badly-judged Alain Prost overtaking manoeuvre but it certainly wasn’t due to any blind bends or hidden dips in the road. Staggering! Though confused, we decided against stopping to ask the driver, still trapped upside down in the car, how he (I assume it was a he) had contrived to perform such a feat.
We’ve picked our way through the couple of bits of carnage and are safely back at home on the overcrowded roads of the UK.