A few years back, legislation was passed (EU Cross-border Directive) which allows EU member states to chase traffic-related offences committed by foreign drivers in their respective countries. This came about due to British motorists in the hundreds of thousands allegedly dodging fines after being caught speeding in France alone. In the run-up to Brexit, there's speculation that the French authorities are rushing to hammer drivers with fines before it becomes more difficult to acquire the personal details of UK vehicle owners from the DVLA. It's not yet clear exactly whether the cross-border enforcement directive legislation will be carried over once Britain leaves the EU.
The EU Cross-border Directive targets specific driving offences:
- Not using a seatbelt
- Not stopping at a red traffic light or other mandatory stop signals
- Drink/drug driving
- Not wearing a safety helmet (motorcyclists)
- Using a forbidden lane
- Using a mobile phone while driving
You can view an in-depth breakdown of the points above over on the European Commission website.
What documents do you need to drive in France?
As you're traveling to a European Union member state, your UK driver's license will enable you to drive there, however, if you're taking your own car you'll need to carry proof of insurance and your V5C document. You'll still need your passport, of course. After Brexit, it's likely that UK drivers traveling abroad will need an international driving permit. For more information on driving in Europe after Brexit, Auto Express has written an in-depth article here.
At a glance: French speed limits
France uses the metric system, so their measurement of speed is in kilometers per hour. If you're worried about having to do some maths on the fly to convert your current mph to km/h, fear not - modern speedometers display both units at once. Digital speedometers can usually be changed in your car's infotainment settings.
An uncommonly known trait with french speed limits is that the speed limit can vary depending on the weather conditions. In rainy conditions, you must abide by a lower speed limit on motorways. If you're driving on the motorway just after crossing the border, this is where you'll likely be caught out by the gendarmerie as they're usually driving around this area.
Speed cameras in France don't have the same tolerance as UK cameras, over here our cameras typically have a 10% + 2 mph threshold whereas the french only have a 5% tolerance. While driving in a foreign country can be stressful as you're getting used to an entirely new environment, be sure to keep an eye on your speedometer to ensure you don't get any speeding fines.
|Motorways||130 kph (110 kph in the rain)|
|Dual Carriageways||110 kph|
|Main Roads (Outside Built-up Areas)||80 kph|
|Main Roads (Built-up Areas)||50 kph|
*Speed limits are subject to change since the writing of this article.
If you get caught speeding in France, do you still get points on your UK license?
If you're reading this because you're certain you got flashed by a speed camera whilst cruising in France, don't worry - you won't receive points on your UK license (unless you have a French license), however, you will still have to pay a fine. Here's the kicker though the French authorities have up to an entire year to send you to notice of the fine and if you don't pay it, the cost of the fine will increase.
In some EU countries such as the Netherlands, the points system doesn't exist which we speculate is why the points system wasn't written into the legislation.
If you were speeding in a rental car, expect to be notified by the rental company as soon as they receive word of the speeding fine. As they are the registered owners of the vehicle, the authorities will send notice of the fine to them first, but there have been some reported cases of rental firms charging a small premium/handling charge for their inconvenience. Of course, if you were to receive an on-the-spot fine, you'll be paying immediately rather than going through this process. They'll even give you a lift to the nearest cash machine.
On the other hand, if you're caught speeding by a considerably large amount (roughly + 25 km/h), the gendarmerie is entitled to confiscate your driving license, which means you won't be allowed to drive in France for three months. What this also means is that your car will either have to be towed (at your cost) or driven by your traveling companion, if you're fortunate to have one with you at the time.