France sets an example over fall in road deaths

The number of people killed on Europe’s roads in a year dropped by over 15,000 in ten years with France making more progress to improve road safety than most of the rest of the continent. Although there are still dangers out there on French roads.

France sets an example over fall in road deaths
France is doing better than most of Europe to cut the number of road deaths. Photo: Philippe Huguen/AFP

French drivers may get a bad reputation, especially from expats living in France, but safety has improved on the country’s more than in almost all other European countries.

A new report published on Tuesday by European road safety body ETSC revealed that the number of road deaths across the continent had dropped by 55 percent.

In terms of the number of fatalities that reflects a drop from 27, 700 killed on the roads in 2001 to 12,345, killed in 2012.

Although Spain had made the most progress with a 12 percent drop in road deaths, followed by Latvia on 11 percent, France came in third with an almost 9 percent dip in fatalities over the same time frame.

That’s better than the European average, which stands at a 7.4 percent fall.

At the other end of the scale was Romania, that saw a drop of less than one percent and Poland which saw a fall in road deaths of just under 4 percent. In the UK the number of fatalities was just above the European average of 7.4 percent.

'Crazy French drivers': The real rules of la Route in France 

Road safety has been made a priority under the socialist government, with various measures having been taken to cut the number of road deaths from the introduction of hidden mobile speed cameras to suggested drops in speed limits.

In January this year The Local reported how France saw a record drop in the number of deaths on its roads meaning they were at their lowest level since 1948.

A government plan to drop the speed limit on secondary roads to 80 km/h has been met with opposition from motorist groups.

But according to the ETSC survey it is France’s secondary road network that poses the greatest danger.

Around 80 percent of fatal accidents are on secondary of roads. Almost half of fatal accidents involve just one vehicle and 30 percent are due to head-on collisions.

A new survey published on Thursday also revealed French drivers were still fond of some bad driving habits.

The TNS Sofres survey revealed that one in two drivers have used their mobile phones whilst driving. Drivers also admitted to breaking the speed limits when restricted to driving at 50 km/h in towns. But on a postive note there was a notable drop in the number of drivers who admitted to getting behind the wheel of a car after having downed a few alcoholic drinks.

What can France and the rest of Europe do to improve things further? ETSC recommends implementing stricter laws regarding speed, drink-driving and the wearing of seat-belts.

It also recommends improving the instruction given to learner-drivers. France is also considering a controversial change to the law that would allow 15-year-old's to get behind the wheel of a car.

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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.