French drivers ‘getting faster and paying less attention’

Despite a crackdown from authorities on dangerous driving, a new study has found that the French aren't behaving any better on the roads.

French drivers 'getting faster and paying less attention'
All photos: AFP
The French are driving even faster and paying less attention to the roads, according to a new study from Sanef, a private company that run French motorways.
The study was based on driving patterns on the A13 motorway between Paris and Caen to the north and marked the fifth study of its kind by the company in five years. 
The results showed that the average speed of French motorists had risen from a consistent 127km/h over the past four years to 129 km/h in 2016.
Of the 140,000 vehicles observed, 43 percent hit speeds of over 130 km/h (compared to 37 percent last year), and an alarming 4 percent of drivers exceeded the 150km/h mark, a one percentage-point jump compared to last year.  
High speeds are to blame for seven of every ten road accidents in France.
Sanef's study also pointed to a worrying dearth of concentration on the roads, finding that 4.9 percent of motorists observed held their mobile while driving, against 3.7 percent in 2015.
Not only is it illegal to do this in France, but as of last year it has even been illegal to use headphones or headsets while driving. 
Sanef's study also found that 22 percent of drivers did not drive a safe distance from other cars and that one in three vehicles crowded the middle lanes instead of keeping to the right.
The disquieting statistics add to an already sombre picture of driving in 2016. 
There were 10.1 percent more road deaths in May 2016 than in May the previous year, according to the Road Safety Direction (la Sécurité routière), and the number of deaths in the first five months of 2016 marked a 3.8 percent rise on the same period in 2015. 
All this has come despite a concerted government clampdown on dangerous driving.  
France has been treating road safety as a priority ever since 2014 marked the first year since 2002 that number of people dying on the roads had risen, with 3,384 deaths. To make matters worse, 2015 saw the mortality rate increase again.
In response, France has rolled out dozens of safety measures like adding an additional 500 fixed speed cameras and 10,000 dummy cameras.
France has also experimented with lowering the speed limit on several rural roads from 90km/h to 80km/h, and cracked down on drink-driving by lowering the legal limit for young drivers to zero.
Other recent laws included making it obligatory for child cyclists to wear helmets and motorbike riders to wear gloves.

How French motorists drive expats crazy

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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.