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DRIVING IN FRANCE

DRIVING

French drivers urged to be more courteous to others

The French are not exactly known for their civility towards other drivers, but can attitudes change?

French drivers urged to be more courteous to others
Photo: Trap Gosh/Flickr

There's perhaps a reason why France needs a grandly titled “International Courtesy at the Wheel Week”, even if there's nothing international about it.

Foreign drivers have long bemoaned the incivility of French drivers, whether it's driving so close to the car in front it looks like they are being towed or jumping red lights to cause a snarl-up at a junction. (SEE COMIC VIDEO BELOW)

And the French themselves, or at least France's road safety group, the French Association of Preventing Bad Behaviour on the Road (AFPC), seem to agree.

That's why the association is holding its 16th edition of the “International Courtesy at the Wheel” week, which essentially is aimed at improving manners on the road to make driving in France less stressful and far less dangerous at a time when road deaths are rising.

The president Régis Chomel de Jarnieu said the aim of the week is to raise awareness among the French about the dangers of not being courteous on the roads.

'Courtesy, which isn’t necessarily kindness, means behaving responsibly as an individual, which obviously helps improve safety on the roads,” said the president.

He blames the “catapult syndrome” which has taken hold in France, which he defines as “drivers being desperate to arrive even before they’ve set off”.

Chomel de Jarnieu wants French drivers to leave behind their stress and adopt a mood of serenity when they get behind the wheel.

“The vast majority of road users want to be zen. Stress, pressure, danger, accidents, who wants all that? We need to change, each and every one of us, not just ‘the others’.”

He pointed to a recent study that showed that 87 percent of drivers recognized that a courteous action by other drivers will encourage them too, to be more respectful to other drivers on the road.

“A simple gesture of courtesy or aggression can trigger a chain of events that will either create a pleasant climate to drive in, or make it more stressful and dangerous,” he said.

“We are all responsible.”

Last year, 3,464 people died in car accidents in France, a 2.4 percent jump from 2014. And according to AFPC, bad road manners play a big role in those statistics.

Earlier this year, The Local reported how new car stickers were available to senior citizen drivers in France, aimed at encouraging other drivers to be respectful.

The association is pleased that learner drivers will now be questioned about road courtesy in the obligatory driving theory test.

But Pierre Chasseray, the head of France's biggest motorists group, 40 Millions d'Automobilistes, believes French drivers don't need to be told to be more courteous more than any other nationality.

“I have seen the same kind of bad behaviour on the roads in the UK or in Italy,” Chasseray told The Local. “It's always good to talk about positive behaviour when driving but a French motorist is no worse than an Italian one or a British, German or Spanish one.”

Many expat drivers in France might be left spitting out their café au lait at that remark – as the article below suggests.

How French motorists drive expats mad

Chasseray did accept however that the historic loathing French people have for rules and regulations may play a part in the way they drive.

“There is a spirit of revolution among French people. They never like rules and actively like to go against them,” he said.

That would seem to include respecting red lights and no-parking signs.

The AFPC seems to agree and points to a survey that reveals how the French lament the ever-increasing restrictions on their individual liberties.

Some 68 percent of respondents to the survey pleaded for preventative measures to be introduced around driving, rather than repressive ones. But the fact that France is currently rolling out hundreds more speed cameras suggests the government has not heard their message.

 

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LIVING IN FRANCE

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.

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