Tuesday, 24 June 2014

French Police Watching British Drivers

The A64 marks the final stretch before reaching their holiday destinations in France. Most are in a hurry to get the holiday started and going a little faster than they should. French police say many foreign drivers break the speed limit because they think they can avoid a fine. EU figures from last year show that foreign drivers make up 5% of road traffic but account for 15% of speeding offences in the 28-nation bloc.

New EU legislation came in to force November last year that was aimed at tackling that anomaly. The legislation means member states can exchange data on motoring offences, to track down guilty drivers. So if a French camera catches a Spanish motorist speeding, that driver will still have to pay a fine in Spain (provided the driver is the owner of the vehicle) The UK and some others however opted out of the EU directive. This means the only way UK motorists can be sanctioned on French roads is if they are caught in the act by the police and made to pay on-the-spot fines.

There is a 32-strong special division of the gendarmerie that is equipped with special binoculars that can calculate speeds. They watch discreetly, about a kilometre before a toll booth, on a section of the A64 where the speed limit is 110km/h (68 mph). French motorists are given a fine that they can pay at a later date, but foreign drivers are in for a surprise. They have to pay cash up on the spot (the fine can be up to 375 euros (£323), If they don't have any money on them and they are on their own, they will be driven to the nearest cash point. If they really have no money at all, then an on-duty judge will be called to decide what to do. But that can mean waiting around for up to three days and the car will not be allowed to move.

  • There are a variety of things that you can also be fined for including speeding
  • Maximum speed on motorway is 130km/h (80 mph)
  • On-the-spot fine of 90 euros if driver goes up to 40km/h over limit
  • If speed breaks limit by more than 40km/h, police can seize car and demand 750-euro fine
  • Driver must have a reflective jacket and warning triangle in car - fine can be 90 euros if either is missing
  • In-car radar detectors are illegal
  • law to carry one unused breath test see here for more information

Pretending not to speak French will not help drivers. The police quite often have a very adequate level of English. British police sometimes even join their French counterparts on missions in northern France, though they do not have the authority to issue fines on French territory.

The UK government are staying out of the new EU data exchange for several reasons. It is not happy that the directive means exchanging vehicle owner information, rather than driver information - and often, it argues, the offending driver does not own the vehicle.

The UK government also says fines are a poor deterrent for bad driving, compared with points on a driving licence, or the threat of losing a licence altogether. And the government wants to assess the cost of setting up the EU-wide data exchange system before joining in.

Sources: BBC, Sunday Times


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