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DRIVING

Is this the simple solution for Brits driving in France?

British drivers in France have long complained about the behaviour of the locals on the road, but perhaps French authorities have stumbled across a solution.

Is this the simple solution for Brits driving in France?
If an "S" sticker works for senior citizens, why not a "RB" sticker for Brits? Photo: France TV.

In a bid to improve driving etiquette, a motorists association in France is selling stickers to go on the back of cars with the letter “S” printed on them.

The “S” doesn’t stand for “scared” but for “senior” and it is hoped drivers will act a little bit more courteously when they realise the car in front is being driven by an elderly person.

In theory the “S” sign, just like the “A” sign for learner drivers, is meant to alert other drives that that the driver of the car in front might just react a little bit slower or more hesitantly than others.

They may not, for example, zoom off as soon as the light turns green and they may take their time overtaking on the autoroute to ensure they don't crash.

The Signal Senior association has sold over 1,200 stickers so far and hopes they will save not just shredded nerves and stress, but even lives.

Around 16 percent of drivers on French roads are over 65 and they are twice as likely to die when crashes occur than younger people, according to the organisation Prevention Routiere.

The association's president Gilles Renard summed up the benefits of the stickers.

“Those who are already using the sticker are happy because they are no longer honked at by other road users, they are left in peace and are much better respected.”

Which has made us wonder why the association can’t bring out a series of stickers for British drivers.

 
How French motorists drive expats crazy

Granted the British license plate should get the message across to French drivers that the driver in the car in front might not react how they want, but it doesn’t seem to be enough given the amount of complaints aired on our articles about driving in France.

And then there are those who hire cars with French number plates in France or who have their own French car. They need stickers!

For a start the association could easily start producing a big sticker with RB on it. The RB stands for “Rosbif” or Roast Beef in English, which is how the French semi-affectionately refer to Brits.

The “RB” would immediately alert the French driver to the fact the driver in front is indeed on the wrong side of the road to normal and therefore slightly more nervous and probably going a little slower than they would like.

Ideally the “RB” would be placed on the front of the car too, so drivers get adequate warning that we might go the wrong way round a roundabout and not stop to give priority to those on the right, called “prioritaire a droit” in French.

Although the sticker would also alert them to the fact that we are likely to speed on open motorways and get caught by the police, but not bother paying the fines into French coffers.

Maybe some foreign drivers are not “Rosbifs” or perhaps don’t want to advertise the fact they are, so separate stickers are needed to give French drivers warning that they need to put the brakes on some aspects of their driving culture when we are around.

A sticker with the words “Distance svp!” could possibly alert French drivers not to tailgate or drive up the backside of someone on the motorway, which tends to make British drivers very anxious indeed.

And similarly a sticker “Espace svp!” could let them know not to park tight against our bumpers, because we’d have no idea how to get out.

Maybe one with just a symbol of an ear with a cross through it would tell them not to bother beeping if they get frustrated with us.

Surely there's something in this.

Ben McPartland, an Englishman

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DRIVING

The law changes drivers in France need to know about in 2023

From petrol discounts and motorway tolls to low-emission zones and help to buy a greener car, here’s what’s changing for motorists in France in the next 12 months.

The law changes drivers in France need to know about in 2023

Petrol prices 

The French government’s €0.10 per litre discount on petrol and diesel ends on January 1st, and TotalEnergies’ discount-match at its fuel stations also finishes.

Motorists may be able to look forward to some help from the supermarket chain E.Leclerc, which also owns several petrol stations across France, after the head of the chain E.Leclerc, Michel-Edouard Leclerc, told BFM Politique on December 18th that the company would “make a gesture” to help motorists in France with rising fuel prices, but he did not provide any further details.

But the blanket discount will be replaced by targeted assistance for households on lower incomes who rely on their vehicles for work, with about 10 million workers expected to receive a one-off payment of €100.

To apply for the aid, you will need to register your details on the tax website. 

READ ALSO Who will get France’s €100 fuel hand-out and how?

Carpooling

The French government has unveiled a plan to encourage carpooling on Tuesday, offering drivers who register on carpooling platforms a benefit of €100.

Drivers will be able to register starting on January 1st, and the payment of €100 will be done in instalments – with a lump sum of “at least” €25 upon registration and then the remaining amount distributed over the course of 10 carpool journeys.

“Carpooling is a very effective lever for reducing our country’s fuel consumption in a sustainable way. It is good for the climate and good for the purchasing power of the French,” French environment minister Agnès Pannier-Runacher told Huffpost.

READ ALSO French government announces €100 payment for those joining carpooling platforms

Motorway tolls

From February, motorway toll fees will rise by an average of 4.75 percent, after rising 2 percent in 2022.

The Transport Ministry pointed out that the 4.75 percent toll increase – announced in October – is “markedly lower” than France’s inflation rate of 6.33 percent. 

On some networks, electric vehicles will benefit from a five percent discount, while regular users – who make a minimum of 10 return journeys a month on the same route – may be eligible for a discount of 40 percent, up from the current 30 percent. Check with the motorway operator for details.

READ ALSO Driving in France: What is télépéage and how does it work?

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.

Breakdown fees

No one wants to break down on the motorway, but if you do, you probably want to know how much getting your vehicle fixed will cost. The annual government-set charges are clear.

If your vehicle can be repaired at the side of the motorway in 30 minutes or less, you will be charged a government-set fee. A decree published in September 2022 indicated that the fee was to rise €131.94 in 2021, to €138.01, plus parts.

READ ALSO French motorway breakdown services cost rises

Extra help to buy electric vehicles

French president Emmanuel Macron announced in October an increase in the financial aid available for anyone who trades in a combustion engine car for an electric one from January 2023.

In a partial reversal on previous plans, under which the ecological bonus for trading in an older car for an electric model was set to fall, Macron said: “Because we want to make the electric car accessible to everyone, we are going to increase the ecological bonus from €6,000 to €7,000 for half of [France’s] households.” 

READ ALSO EXPLAINED: The financial aid available to buy an electric car in France

Electric car charge points

Since October 1st, electric vehicles parked in front of a public charging station must be connected and charging – drivers cannot simply use them as an extra parking space. Anyone who ignores the rule risks a fine of €58.

Crit’Air sticker extension and more fines for polluting vehicles

France’s environment minister announced in October a major extension of the city low-emission zones controlled by Crit’Air stickers, plus an increase in fines up to a maximum of €750. 

Between 2023 and 2025, 43 more French cities will create low-emission zones, on top of the 11 that already have them.

READ MORE: Crit’Air: Drivers face €750 fines in France’s new low-emission zones

The Crit’Air system requires all motorists – including the drivers of foreign-registered vehicles – going to any of the low-emission zones to get a sticker for their vehicle. The sticker assigns the vehicle a number from 0 (all electric vehicles) to 5 (the most polluting).

Some low emission zones will begin gradually banning more polluting cars. Paris, for instance, intends to ban Crit’Air 3 vehicles in July 2023, a move held back from July 2022.

READ ALSO Driving in France: How the Crit’Air vehicle sticker system works

Winter tyres

France introduced a law, the Loi Montage II (mountain law II), in 2020 making winter tyres, chains or socks compulsory in certain areas, which will finally come into effect in 2023.

The law makes either snow tyres, all-weather tyres or chains compulsory in 48 of France’s 96 mainland départements – generally those areas which are mountainous, with local authorities in those départements responsible for deciding where such rules will be applied.

READ ALSO Winter tyres and snow chains: What are the rules in France?

Insurance

Drivers in France may not have to worry about the little green stickers that they attach to their windscreen (windshield) soon, after French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire announced plans to scrap them in favour of a digitalised system set to start in 2023.

The goal, according to the finance minister, is to simplify the process for drivers and reduce costs.

French car insurers, like France Assureurs, have been pushing for the piece of paper to be scrapped for some time.

READ ALSO France announces plan to scrap vehicle insurance windscreen stickers

Roadworthiness test for motorcycles

After some back and forth, the French council of the state decided in October that motorcycles (two-wheeled vehicles) would also need to comply with “roadworthiness” testing starting January 1st, 2023. This is part of a decree passed by the French government in August 2021, and it specifically concerns two-wheeled vehicles registered to dates prior to 2016. The council of the state specified that the vehicles concerned are “motor vehicles with two, three or four wheels with a cylinder capacity of more than 125 cm3.” As of December 2022, the details regarding how this plan will be implemented were not yet available, so it is possible enforcement measures will be staggered, according to reporting by Auto-Moto.

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