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DRIVING

Speeding British driver jams French police radar

British drivers' reputation for enjoying letting loose on French motorways was reinforced when seven Britons were flashed at over 190 km/h on the same stretch of motorway over one weekend. One driver's speed, believed to be over 250km/h, even broke a police radar.

Speeding British driver jams French police radar
Faster than a mobile speed radar? A Briton driving an Audi R8 company car broke a French speed radar, after driving above 250 km/h, according to reports. File photo of an Audi R8: Axion 23/Flickr

A spate of speeding tickets dished out by French police over the weekend will do nothing to challenge the image that certain British motorists turn into fearless speed demons when they hit the open road of the French autoroutes.

According to French TV TF1, no less that seven Britons were pulled over and given tickets on the same stretch of motorway in Normandy, at the weekend. 

All were clocked at over 190 km/h, but one among them surely takes the biscuit, after reaching such a speed that the mobile police radar couldn't handle it.

The Briton, driving an Audi R8, might have been mistaken for a rogue competitor at the nearby Le Mans 24 hour race, as he sped by on the A28 motorway between Rouen and Alençon in Normandy on Friday.

According to reports in the French media, traffic police were unable to record his exact speed, because their speed radar broke down after the Briton exceeded 250 km/h.

When motorcycle cops from the town of Courbépine finally caught up with him, it was revealed that the Audi R8 was a company car, belonging to a business registered in England.

The vehicle was impounded on orders from the prosecutor at Evreux, the driver’s license was confiscated, and he was immediately banned from driving on all French roads.

In addition, the British speedster faces a €1,500 fine and, one would venture to say, an awkward conversation about company car privileges, when he returns to Britain.

Let this speedster be a lesson for the thousands of British motorists who are set to flock across the Channel this summer.

Rosie Sanderson from the British motorists organisation The AA rejected the stereotype of British drivers travelling at break-neck speeds in France, but said there was always a risk that exuberance and complacency could take effect when driving abroad.

"As soon as you get in the car, you get in holiday mode, and as soon as you get on foreign soil, it can be easy to lose track of speed limits," she told The Local.

The AA has specific advice on their website for anyone planning to drive in France.

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LIVING IN FRANCE

Reader question: Can I buy or sell a car in France if I have a foreign driving licence?

You can drive in France for a certain amount of time with some foreign driving licences. But can you buy or sell a car with one and what other documents do you need?

Reader question: Can I buy or sell a car in France if I have a foreign driving licence?

Let’s start with the good news: a driving licence is not among the list of official documents needed to buy or sell a car in France – just to drive one.

But it’s likely that are asked to provide one when you buy a car.

In that case does what happens if you have a foreign rather than French licence?

We know by reading certain Facebook posts that this question often arises and some people have reported that they were wrongly asked for their French driving licence when buying a car and told that a UK licence, for example, wasn’t acceptable. 

Not having a French driver’s licence should not stop you from being able to buy a car in France.

Kim Cranstoun who runs the Facebook group ‘Applying for a French Driving Licence’ told The Local: “It’s a dealer issue, they have it fixed in their mind that you have to have a French licence mainly because they don’t understand the new agreement and the last thing they read was a UK licence was only valid until the end of 2021.

“As long as you have a valid UK licence you can purchase a car in France. Anyone going into a dealer with a valid UK licence should carry a copy of the agreement,” she said.

Interestingly a driving licence is not on the list of official documents you need to buy a car (see below) but dealer’s will often ask for it if they take charge of registering the car.

What does the seller need?

The seller is responsible for providing the car registration document, called the certificat d’immatriculation and known informally as the Carte Grise.

You must sign a certificat de cession (transfer certificate) along with the buyer, and then declare the sale on the ANTS website within 15 days. 

You should then receive a code de cession (transfer code) which you must also send to the buyer so they can register the vehicle in their name.

If the vehicle is second-hand and more than four-years old, the seller should also provide a recent roadworthiness certificate, proving that the vehicle has passed a contrôle technique (similar to an MoT in the UK), in the past six months.

What does the buyer need?

When you buy a car, you must sign a certificat de cession (transfer certificate) along with the previous owner, who has to declare the sale on the ANTS website within 15 days. 

The seller should then receive a code de cession (transfer code) which they must send you because you will need this to register the vehicle in your name. There is a fee, which usually falls to the buyer to pay for transferring a vehicle registration – which varies depending on the region, type of car, and its CO2 emissions. 

The previous certificat d’immatriculation (registration certificate – aka carte grise) needs to be struck through, and completed with the date of the sale and the seller’s signature.

You will then need to register the car in your name, which can be done online. You have one month to do this, otherwise you risk a fine of up to €750. 

If you are purchasing the car through a dealer, this transfer of registration will be done at the time of the purchase. Be aware, a dealer may ask for your driving licence as part of the process, but – as long as you hold a valid licence, whether it is French or not, you will still be able to go through with your purchase.

In fact, you can ask any certified garage to apply for the carte grise on your behalf, which could save on time and hassle, even if you didn’t buy the car from them.

When applying for a carte grise you will need to submit proof that the vehicle has undergone a contrôle technique (vehicle safety check) within the previous six months if the car is at least four years old.

To register the vehicle, you need the following official documents:

  • Identification (passport or identity card)

  • Proof of residence (typically a utility bill or rental receipt, less than six months old).

  • A copy of the Certificat d’immatriculation/Carte Grise with the appropriate section filled in.

  • The contrôle technique (CT) certificate, if required.

Buying a car with a loan

If you have the funds to buy the vehicle outright, you’ll have no problems – simply hand over the cheque at the appropriate time. It may be harder, however, to access financing for your vehicle if you’re not permanently resident in France.

Driving your new vehicle

If you plan to drive your car away that day, you will also be asked for a copy of a valid insurance certificate for the vehicle – in France, the vehicle is insured rather than the driver. 

Most car insurance companies will provide a provisional certificate to allow you to drive your new purchase. You will then need to finalise details and provide them with a copy of the Carte Grise when it arrives.

Driving licence

If you live permanently in France, sooner or later you may need to swap your driving licence for a French one – but where you learned to drive in the first place could dictate whether you have to take a French driving test. We cover that in depth here – including what’s changed for Britons in France after Brexit.

You can buy some vehicles – known as voitures sans permis – and drive them on some French roads without having a driving licence. Anyone born after 1988 must, however, hold a Brevet de sécurité routière, which has a 15-year limit, and the vehicles are speed limited and can only travel on certain routes.

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