New French Driving licences

The old pink paper driving licence is to be replaced over several years, starting in 2013 by a new ‘credit card’ style digital licence. New licences will have a photo which must be updated every 15 years, and contain relevant personal details and info such as points already racked up by the driver. The new system will enable the French authorites to exchange driving offense data within the European Union, and crack down on foreign offenders. It will also provide a long discussed opportunity for France to bring in medical examinations  to check out  fitness to drive for elderly drivers,. At present, (2011) there is no age limit.

Exchange of the British Driving Licence in France

According to the European Community Directive (91/439/EEC), since 1 January 1997 British Nationals taking up residence in France for more than a year no longer need to exchange their British licence for a French one. However if British Nationals wish to do so, they should make the request at the nearest “Préfecture”. The issuing of a French driving licence implies the withdrawal of the British national driving licence, which is sent back to the issuing authority (Driver & Vehicle Licensing Authority).

Some offences and their accompanying fines

€11 to €38….. if you are unable to present necessary documents (rising to €135 if you don’t present them within five days).
€35 to €135 and two points……. for using a mobile phone or a ‘hands-free’ whilst driving
€135 to €750 and one point …….for failing to dip your headlights when necessary.
€135 to €750 and two points….. for accelerating when being overtaken
€1,500 and the suspension of your licence…….. for using a radar detector.
€135 to €750 and three points ………for driving on the wrong side of the road!!  (Ooooops)

Registration of a private vehicle

If you are staying in France for more than 6 months, you will have to re-register your car. Only residents of France can apply for the registration of their vehicle. To do this, you need to go to the nearest “Préfecture”. An export certificate from the DVLA (Tel: 01792 77 21 51) will be required if the vehicle is currently registered in the UK. More info:
Ministère des Transports
ARCHE DE LA DEFENSE
DSCR
Sous-direction de la Formation du Conducteur
92055 PARIS LA DEFENSE CEDEX 04
Tel : 00.33.1.40.81.82.48 /82 12 /81.87

[(Attention! If you are convicted of a motoring offence in France, you will be required to apply for a French licence so that points or penalties can be applied.)]

New visibility law

From the 1st July 2008, it is be obligatory for all vehicles travelling in France to carry a fluorescent visibility vest in addition to the triangle already required by law. Failure to do so will result in a fine.
NB: TWO warning triangles and a fluorescent visibility vest per person required in Spain

Know Your Limits

June, July and August are the big festival months in the P-O and festivals often involve eating, drinking and driving home – une mauvaise combinaison! The gendarmeries continue to crack down on drink drivers with regular and random contrôles both on the festival evenings and the day after (the morning or afternoon following a féria have proved to produce nearly as many drivers over the limit as on the actual night).
The drink drive limit in France is 0.50g per litre of blood (as opposed to 0.80g/l in the UK) allowing no more than two small glasses of wine for an average person.
If you are over the limit by between 0.5g/l and 0.8 g/l, you will receive an on-the-spot fine of 135 euros, and the loss of six points on your driving licence. ( If your licence is British, you will most likely be told to apply for a French one so that the points can be deducted.)
You will not be allowed to drive your car again until you are below 0.5g/l.
If you are over the limit by more than 0.8g/l, your licence will be confiscated, and you will receive a fine of up to 4500 euros with 6 points on your licence and possible jail time, to be decided by a judge. You might also be banned from driving in France for up to 3 years.
Most large festivals will have a stall offering free Alco tests.

Liber-T badge – péage without pain

Regular users of French autoroutes, or those with right hand drive cars, may wish to invest in a “Liber-T badge” which allows you to pass through the péage without having to queue. With this badge your details are automatically recorded when you pass through the reserved lanes at any péage, (look out for the large T) without having to stop or collect a ticket. Register online on www.asf-telepeage.fr. Payment is 2 euros per month, or 20€ per year (with different price options available) which is only charged for months used, (ie if you don’t use it at all for one month, you don’t pay the fee) plus of course the toll itself.

Charges are invoiced and taken from your credit card account once a month. There is also a refundable deposit of 30e to pay upfront in case you decide to disappear with the remote control!!

Driving offences and points

Remember that if you are stopped in France for a driving offence, you can receive an on-the-spot fine. If this happens to you, do insist on an official receipt from the officer collecting the fine.
Always carry with you your driving license, insurance documents, and ‘carte grise’ (vehicle registration).  If you are unable to provide these documents, particularly your driving licence, or your vehicle is not in order, residents will receive a fine (‘une amende’ or ‘un avis de contravention’) and will be given up to  five days to present their papers at the police station and pay the fine. Non residents however, are likely to receive an on-the –spot fine (une consignation) and have their vehicle impounded if they are  unable to pay. A friendly policeman may accompany you to a bank or cash point to allow you to withdraw cash!

You will be given a ‘quittance’ or ‘justicatif de payment’ from a payment book, and will receive a receipt.

All drivers start with 12 points, from which between one to six points may be deducted per offence, depending on its gravity. One point is deducted for minor speeding offences; three for more serious speeding offences, dangerous overtaking, driving on the wrong side of the road or not wearing a seat belt. Drunken driving, manslaughter or driving without a licence warrant six points. If you lose four or more points your licence may also be suspended for a limited period. Visit [www. reseaupointspermis.com->www. reseaupointspermis.com] where you can check the status of any points on your licence.

KM OVER LIMIT  FINE POINTS LOSS ON LICENCE
Less than 20 km/h *68 euros (or 135€ if speed limit lower than 50km) 1
between 20 km/h and 30 km/h **135 euros 2
between 30 km/h and 40 km/h 135 euros 3 (plus possible licence suspension)
between 40 km/h and 50 km/h 135 euros 4 (plus possible licence suspension)
more than 50 km/h 1500 euros 6 (plus licence suspension and jail for second offence)

* if paid in less than 15 days it is 45 euros, and if paid in more than 45 days it is 180 euros.
** if paid in less than 15 days it is 90 euros, and if paid in more than 45 days it is 375 euros. – If you car is not registered in France, you will be granted 30 additional days to pay the fine. – You can pay with “timbre amende” (special stamp purchased which you stick to the fine), cheque, phone (0820 11 10 10 – 0.12 euros TTC per minute) or via internet on www.amendes.gouv.fr – If you want to contest a fine, you can fill in the form which arrives with the fine. (Be sure of your facts or you could end up paying a larger fine).
You may also ask for the picture of the infraction to prove whether it was you or not.

Green machines

A new scheme introduced on 1st January 2008 means that you could end up paying a large chunk of éco tax if the car you have chosen is not eco-friendly, OR receive a sizeable rebate on your new car if it complies with the “green” code. The aim of the scheme is to penalise drivers who go for large, fuelgreedy cars and reward drivers who opt for smaller, cleaner vehicles. Do not necessarily rely on your car showroom to advise you – it may not always be in their best interest to direct you towards a smaller or cheaper model!!

Watch out for flashers

There are more and more fixed ‘radars’ becoming operational in the P-O. Here are their locations to date, but watch out for mobile radars just about anywhere (but rarely during the lunch hour!!). Of course, the safest way to avoid being flashed is quite simply to stick to the limits.

A9 – LES CLUSES direction North – 130 km/h

D115 -SAINT-JEAN-PLA-DE-CORTS direction Le Boulou to Céret – 90 km/h

D612A – TOULOUGES direction Thuir to Toulouges – 90 km/h – D617

CANET-EN-ROUSSILLON direction Perpignan to Canet-en-Roussillon – 110 km/h

D83 – LE BARCARES direction Perpignan to Leucate – 110 km/h

D900 – PERPIGNAN direction Narbonne to Perpignan – 110 km/h, avant

D900 – PIA direction Narbonne to Perpignan – 110 km/h – D900

VILLEMOLAQUE direction Le Boulou to Perpignan – 90 km/h, arrière

D914 – COLLIOURE direction Perpignan to Collioure – 90 km/h – D914

ELNE direction Argelès-sur-Mer to Perpignan – 110 km/h – D914

PERPIGNAN direction sens Perpignan to Cerbere – 110 km/h, avant

N116 – LE SOLER direction Prades to Perpignan – 110 km/h

N116 – RODES direction Prades to Perpignan – 90 km/h

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