French drivers need to be taught not punished

France doesn't need more speed cameras, it needs to follow the lead of the UK and teach its motorists to be more responsible on the roads, the head of France's leading motorist group tells The Local.

French drivers need to be taught not punished
How could France improve the way motorists drive? Photo: AFP
Pierre Chasseray, who heads the French drivers' organization 40 Million d'Automobilistes, speaks out about the raft of new measures introduced on Friday in a bid to cut the ever-increasing number of road deaths in France.
Among those measures is a plan to roll out another 500 speed cameras to bring the number to 4,700. On top of that there will be many more cameras placed in unmarked police cars to snare motorists committing a variety of offences.
Here Chasseray tells The Local why French drivers need to be taught to drive responsibly rather than being repeatedly punished by the law.
Pierre Chasseray:
“We know that the UK is among the top three countries in Europe when it comes to its record on road safety.
“We can learn from the UK that it's not about bringing in more laws and rules that we can save lives, but by persuading the public of the importance of road safety. We need to convince the French of that.
“For example, in the UK the legal drink-driving limit is 0.8 grams of alcohol (per litre of blood), whereas in France it’s 0.5 grams and 0.2 for young people. And yet, there are more drink-driving deaths in France than in the UK.
“That’s the proof that you need to teach drivers to take more responsibility, because British people drink as much, if not more than the French but they just don’t drink and drive. In France, it's a real problem. 
“We have to have a policy of prevention and to raise awareness by following the UK's example and show we are courageous enough to deactivate speed cameras.
“We can ask the French people to make an effort if we give them something, but at the moment we just ask them to make this effort without giving motorists anything in return and it just doesn't work.
'We treat French drivers like children'
“We have had trouble convincing the French about the need for road safety because we have tried to do it by taking punitive measures. To really bring about a change in habits they need to understand the message. 
“We do not need to treat them like children. In order for people to be convinced, they have to understand the measures. We have to raise awareness, not endlessly blame people.It’s just a problem of behaviour and we have to improve this.
“For example we need to explain to them the importance of keeping a safe distance from the car in front, but that's not punishment.
“Fining people just annoys and irritates them, it doesn't make them drive any better.
“Having said that, the UK drivers who come to France are the tourists who are flashed the most by speed cameras so I don't think we can really say that French drivers are the worst in the world.
“We have trained drivers in France to believe that speed is the only cause of an accident, but in the UK they have explained that is the all-round behaviour of the driver that is important.  
“To change drivers' behaviour, we have to change the ways of communicating with French drivers.”
“In France they wanted to introduce a similar system like in the UK, where they have speed cameras that are not activated or in use.
“The problem is the UK was more intelligent. The UK deactivated speed cameras rather rolling out more, but in France we are adding more speed cameras as well as thousands of fake ones.
“Many of the measures announced on Friday are good, the problem is that French drivers, when hearing these new measures, will only remember the fact that there will be 500 more speed cameras installed and 10,000 fake ones. 
“We have set up an online petition where the public can protest against these measures and we had 60,000 signatures in one day. This shows the public are fed up.

“It's just too much. The French realize this is not about road safety anymore, it's about money. That's what they are thinking at least.
“Whether it's true or not we don't know, but if they are thinking it then it means the government are sending out the wrong message around road safety.
“The message sent out by the prime minister is about “speed cameras and earning money” and that's a disaster, a real disaster.”

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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.