Prolific French traffic cops ‘given €600 bonus’

French traffic police officers are getting huge bonuses if their unit succeeds in handing out the most fines for driving offences, according to a report from an auto magazine on Friday.

Prolific French traffic cops 'given €600 bonus'
A police officer in Marseille keeps an eye out for speeding motorists. Photo: AFP
Ever had the feeling that a police officer seemed only too happy to give you a speeding ticket?
You may have been right. 
Auto Plus magazine revealed in its Friday issue that traffic police units from the CRS that handed out the most PV penalty notices for drivers were being awarded bonuses of €600 each. 
The magazine, which has denounced the policy of targets,  got the information courtesy of a leaked police document from the national police, which is said to have outlined the top nine motorway patrols and 22 motorcycle units across the country. 
These units were ranked and then awarded points for their productivity.
“After a 12-month period, the two motorway brigades and the two motorcycle units that accumulated the most points are given an annual bonus,” Auto Plus reported in an online summary of the story.
The brigades were then given a bonus that is equally divided into €600 for each officer in the unit, the magazine claimed.
For the last 12 months, police in the north and the west of Paris topped the charts when it came to giving motorway fines, while officers in southern Pau and northeastern Reims were most productive on motorbikes.
The magazine noted that it was “shocking” that motorists weren't being treated the same way across France. 
The head of the UNSA Police Union, Philippe Capon, was unimpressed with the news. 
“The PV penalty notices have become one of the most important criteria for valuing the career of police officers,” he told the magazine. 
He added that everything was being done to hasten the ticketing process, including an increase in electronic controls, which he said often leaves ticketed motorists confused and unable to defend themselves. 
“These kinds of methods do nothing to improve relations with the general public, and even change motorists' driving behaviour so that they're trying to avoid getting caught.”

PV penalty notices, (procès-verbal in French), can be given out for anything from speeding and drink driving to illegal parking. 
France's national police force however issued a quick repost, insisting that they do not employ a “policy of targets” and that any evaluation of performance is carried out with the aim of improving safety on French roads.
“The battle to improve road safety is absolute priority for the government,” a statement from the police added.

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What to do if you are hit by an uninsured driver in France?

Nearly 23,000 people across France were involved in a road accident with an uninsured motorist in 2021 - so here is what you need to know about being compensated in this situation.

What to do if you are hit by an uninsured driver in France?

For Julien Rencki, the head of the victims solidarity insurance fund, estimates that there are a little less than one million uninsured drivers on French roads, and he expects the number of incidents between uninsured and insured drivers to grow once more.

“In the first six months of 2022, we had already taken care of 15,000 victims, including more than 5,000 with physical injuries,” Rencki told French daily Le Parisien.

So in the not unlikely event that you are hit by an uninsured drover, what should you do?

First, you should check to see whether you are insured “against all risks” with your vehicle insurance. If so, your insurer will be required to compensate you for both injury and property damage.

READ MORE: Seven need-to-know tips for cutting the cost of car insurance in France

You should also check to see whether your plan with your insurance company has a “defence-recovery” clause (this would cover the cost of legal proceedings in the event of a dispute). 

However, if you have a partial coverage plan (in French this is: assurée qu’au tiers) and you are not entitled to compensation with your insurance company, then you can still be entitled to compensation thanks to the victim’s fund (FGA) – an association that exists to provide compensation to victims, including those of road accidents in scenarios where the perpetrator was uninsured.

In fact, if you or the passengers in your car were injured and the police intervened, and it was noted that the person responsible was uninsured or fled, then the officers would have been required to send a report to the victim’s fund. You would be able to access this on their website HERE.

To apply for this financial assistance, you will need to fill out a claim form, and provide identification as well as a copy of the police or gendarmerie report. If you do not have the latter, you can also send a copy of the accident report, as long as it was signed by both parties, or an accident statement with witness signatures. This will serve as proof that you were not at fault in the accident.

You have up to three years to appeal to the FGA.

If you are given an offer for compensation, then you can either accept or refuse it. 

READ MORE: Driving in France: Understanding the new French traffic laws

The rules on car insurance in France

In France, motorists are required to have third-party insurance, and anyone who drives without insurance risks penalties, such as a fine of up to €3,750, a licence suspension for up to three years, or the confiscation of your vehicle. Penalties may be more severe depending on how long the person is proven to have driven without a licence. 

Additionally, for the motorist without insurance, if they are responsible for an accident, they can still be required to pay the victim’s fund if indemnities are paid to the victim. These fees can amount to several thousand euros.

Vehicle insurance companies are seeking to find ways to encourage the uninsured to sign up for plans, as many cite high costs as the reason they do not have insurance. 

For instance, in September, several insurance companies set up ‘inflation packages’ to help young or unemployed drivers afford car insurance, reported Le Parisien.