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DRIVING

French speed cameras trap 4.5m foreign drivers

Speed cameras in France have caught foreign motorists a staggering 4.5 million times in just one year, that's an incredible 123,287 per day or 5,139 per hour. British drivers are far from the worst offenders.

French speed cameras trap 4.5m foreign drivers
Foreign drivers are earning a fair few pennies for French coffers. Photo: AFP

Foreign drivers are contributing a fair few euros to fill French coffers.

Figures obtained by The Local on Friday show just how prolific French speed cameras, or radars as they are called in France, are at catching foreign drivers who speed or drive through a red light.

The government organisation Securité Routiere (Road Safety) released data revealing that 3.5 million foreign cars were flashed by speed cameras in 2014.

But the organisation said the overall figure is more likely to be 4.5 million given that a quarter of the offences are not recorded because registrations plates are not clearly identified – although it is clear they are from abroad.

That figure represents around 21 percent of the 21 million offences caught on camera on French roads throughout the year.

When it came to the most flashed offenders, the Belgians took the top spot, having been caught speeding or going through red lights a whopping 420,000 times. (See full table below).

Next came the Spanish who clocked up 412,000 offences, while Germans committed 411,000 and the Italians 400,000, which were all caught on camera.

As for the Brits, drivers were snared 165,000 times throughout the year, but unlike the Germans, Spanish and Belgians, the British don’t have to pay up, or at least for the moment.

A European directive dating back to 2011 allows certain EU member states to share information on drivers caught committing offences on the roads, which will be rolled out on a staggered basis.

However Denmark, the UK and Ireland opted out of signing up to the agreement.

SEE ALSO: Revealed  – The most prolific speed cameras in France

As for the Irish, they rang up a total of 7,000 flashes by French speed cameras. At the bottom end of the scale are the Finnish, who were only caught on camera 500 times, but given the distance from Finland to France, it’s surprising they bothered driving here at all.

The figures don’t however include the number of foreign drivers who were given on the spot fines by French police after being caught red handed.

Speed cameras have proved to be a nice little money earner for French authorities over the years although a report published last year suggested takings were slipping.

French newspaper Les Echos reported that the 4,150 speed cameras that litter the country's roads yielded €579 million in 2013.

While that sounds a healthy amount to be taking out of the pockets of speeding motorists, it was less than in 2012, when rogue drivers boosted state coffers to the tune of €620 million.

It marked the first time in ten years that the takings from speed cameras have decreased.

The reason takings went down was put down to fines not being paid and cameras being out of action rather than motorists slowing down and observing the speed limits. 

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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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