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Fury as speed camera traps 8,000 drivers a day

Could one motorway speed camera in France be the world’s most prolific? Either way, hundreds of outraged motorists caught in its glare have started an online petition to have their fines cancelled.

Fury as speed camera traps 8,000 drivers a day
File photo of a French speed radar. Photo: Céréales Killer/Wikimedia Commons

The radar, as they are known in France, flashed 8,000 motorists a day near Rennes, Brittany between January 22nd and 26th, bringing in close to €1.4 million worth of fines and leading to a grand total of 32,000 penalty points – the equivalent of 2,666 driving licenses.

This does not appear to be a case of drivers carelessly flouting the law, however. According to regional newspaper Ouest-France the motorists were caught out after the usual speed limit of 110 kph was lowered to 90 kph due to road-works. The problem was, a sign announcing the change was apparently not visible enough to alert approaching drivers. Hence the speed camera's rich pickings.

The result was that between Tuesday and Friday of that week, 8,000 road-users per day were flashed by the radar, 500 times more than the usual daily average of 16, according to Pierre Chasseray, a spokesman for the group ’40 million motorists,’ who spoke to Ouest-France.

Police set the speed limit back to 110 kph on January 22nd, but this has not brought an end to the episode.

On Tuesday, an internet petition demanding “the cancellation of all fines since changing the speed limit”, had gained more than 500 signatures.

One supporter wrote “Flashed twice in 48 hours! Disgusted!”, while another summed up the views of many petitioners, saying simply “I refuse to pay. It’s a disgrace.”

In a separate incident this week a motorcyclist was reportedly flashed at 238 kph travelling along a road near the city of Orleans. It is not unheard of for bikers to be caught on speed camera travelling at such speeds, but in this case the rider was doing it on just his back wheel.

The stunt  has cost him his motorbike, which was confiscated by police and he is due to be hauled before a judge at a later date.

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Driving in France: What is télépéage and how does it work?

Ever seen those drivers who avoid the queues at toll booths and driving straight through? Here's how they do it.

Driving in France: What is télépéage and how does it work?

If you’re driving on French autoroutes one of the things you need to know is that they are not free – you will have to pay regular tolls, payable at toll booths known as péage.

Usually, drivers pick up a ticket from a booth at the start of their journey, then pay the required amount at a booth at the end of it – or when they move onto a different section of autoroute – based on the distance they have travelled.

But the toll booths themselves can be busy, especially during the summer, and long queues sometimes build up.

READ ALSO 8 things to know about driving in France this summer

This is where automated pay systems – known as télépéage – come in, especially for those who use the motorway network regularly.

As well as allowing you to pass straight through péages without stopping for payment, it’s also very useful for owners of right-hand drive vehicles, who may otherwise find that they’re sitting on the wrong side for easy and speedy payment.

Here’s how it works

Order your télépéage badge online

Click on the Bip&Go website here and follow the instructions to order a scannable personalised device (up to a maximum of two per account for private users). You will need to set up an account to arrange electronic payment of charges.

The website is available in English, French, German or Dutch.

You will need to supply bank details (IBAN number), address (for delivery), mobile phone number (to activate your account) and the vehicle’s registration details.

Your badge will be dispatched to your address within 48 hours from the opening of your online account. You can have the device sent to addresses outside France, but allow longer for it to arrive. 

If you’re in France, you can also pick up the device at one of Bip&Go’s stores, if you prefer – you will need need your bank details, proof of identity and a mobile phone.

Attach your badge 

Place your device on on the windscreen to the right of the rearview mirror. It is activated and ready to go. Then, simply, drive.

At the péage

All toll booths are equipped with the sensors that recognise that the vehicle is carrying the necessary device. At most, you will have to stop briefly for the device to be recognised and the barrier to lift.

You will also be able to drive through certain booth areas without stopping. These are indicated by an orange t symbol on the overhead signs. The maximum speed you can pass through these booths is 30kph.

Payments

Payments are processed automatically. You can monitor the amounts you have to pay on an app.

Do I need separate badges for motorway networks run by different companies?

No. The badge allows holders to travel on the entire French motorway network, no matter which company manages the motorway, and you can also use it to cross a number of toll structures in France such as the Millau Viaduct, the Tancarville Bridge or the Normandie Bridge, and pay to park in more than 450 car parks. 

Is it only valid in France?

No, with certain packages, you can also as easily travel on motorways in Spain, Portugal and Italy, and use a number of compatible car parks. You can even use them on Italian ferries.

Okay, but how much does it cost?

Subscriptions to the Bip&Go service depend on what type of service you want. A fixed price rolling subscription is €16 a year – plus toll charges – but assumes you’re a regular user of French motorways. 

A pay-as-you-go subscription is €1.70 for every month the badge is in use – plus toll charges – and carries a €10 additional fee if the badge is not used in a 12-month period.

How much are the toll charges?

They depend on the road you’re on, how far you travel along it, and the vehicle you’re driving.

Heading from Toulouse to Biarritz along the A64 will cost a total €23 in fees for a private car and if you’re driving all the way from Calais down to the Mediterranean coast expect to pay around €70 once you add up the various tolls along the way.

You can find out tariffs for autoroutes on the website of France’s official autoroute body AFSA – where you can also calculate the cost of your journey – including fuel.

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