Riviera Reporter
Riviera Reporter

Get licensed to drive, in English, with Andrew Johnson

I have very fond memories of my obligatory in-car driving lessons in France. When I moved here there was no licence exchange in place between France and Ontario, Canada and so there I was, a few times a week, behind the wheel getting told off by my French instructor. Was it stressful? Mais oui! When you’ve never used a clutch, never navigated a roundabout, and never learned French driving vocabulary, it’s pretty intense when Pierre, my moniteur d’auto école, is yelling (that’s right, yelling), “Tout droit!” as I’m looping the 4-exit roundabout, trying to process why his hand is pointing straight when my brain is registering “turn right”.

Elle est totalement perdue,” he would gasp, as if alone in the car.

“I am not lost,” I’d clairfy, “je suis confuse!

Yup, fond memories indeed.

When I heard that Andrew C Johnson, an English driving instructor in Monaco, is the only moniteur in the region with a French equivalent diploma, I knew we had to talk.

Andrew C JohnsonAndrew Johnson is a member of the UK’s Driving Instructors Association and has long been involved with road safety issues in FranceAndrew works at the Auto-École Stop at 2 Rue de La Turbie and was brought on board six months ago by Réné Peslier to deal with the ever-increasing number of international drivers needing theory and in-car lessons in English.

This 47-year-old is a knowledgeable guy. Andrew is British but grew up in St-Rémy-de-Provence and Geneva with his English-Swiss parents and so is fluently bilingual. He belongs to the local British Association and British Legion, and I learned from him that while the Principality has fewer CCTV cameras than Nice, Monaco has face recognition software so, unlike in Nice, the screens don’t have to be monitored. If a person arrives on the Rock and is wanted by, say, Interpol, within minutes authorities will be alerted.

Most of Andrew’s clientele are English-speaking residents in Monaco, who for various reasons need a Monegasque driver’s licence – which you must have in order to purchase a car with Monegasque plates. Not the case in France, where the origin of your licence is irrelevant when buying a vehicle. And, as there is no exchange agreement between Monaco and the US, Americans are obliged to take the licence if they are resident. Brits opt for the licence because they want to hold on to their photo ID cards from home.

“Learning the Code is the most difficult part,” explains Andrew. “The Bureau de la Circulation in Monaco has a program that allows you take the theory test in English.”

The Monaco Highway Code is different from that of France – for example, wearing a seat belt in Monaco, oddly enough, is not law – although many of the signs and road markings are the same for the two countries.

Andrew holds theory classes in English at the driving school, Monday and Friday at 10h. In-car sessions are evaluated on an individual basis, but there is no longer a law dictating a fixed number of hours. “You could pass your exam in two weeks if you do the work,” he says. Also, the driver’s exam can be booked quickly in Monaco, unlike France where the waiting time is lengthy.

Getting behind the wheel with a trained instructor is a sure route to understanding the rules of the road in your new home country and to get practice at those roundabouts. After all, you wouldn’t want to get perdu.

For the English Driving School in Monaco, contact Andrew Johnson on +377 93 30 19 50.

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