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DRIVING

What you should do if you have a car accident in France

If you’re driving in France, make sure you know what to do in the event of an accident

No one wants to be involved in a road traffic collision. But if you are while in France, there are things you should know.

Under French law, all cars, including those registered abroad, must carry at least one reflective hi-vis safety vest that is accessible without getting out of the car and a warning triangle that can be placed behind the vehicle in case you have to stop at the side of the road. Drivers who do not have this equipment in their car face a €135 on-the-spot fine.

If you are in a road accident

If you are involved in a minor road traffic collision in France you should:
  • Move to a safe place and alert oncoming traffic by placing a red warning triangle 30 metres down the road, if it is safe to do so, to alert oncoming traffic;
  • If anyone is injured call the police on 17 or 112 (if you are using a non-French mobile phone). If the incident takes place on a motorway, use the nearest fixed roadside emergency telephone. That makes it easier for officers and breakdown crews to locate you. If you are involved in an accident involving any sort of injury, even if it is not your fault, you MUST remain until the police give you permission to leave.
  • Wear your hi-vis safety vest when you are out of your vehicle;
  • If two cars are involved, you may be asked to fill in a Constat Amiable D’Accident Automobile (an amiable declaration – also known as a European Accident Statement) by the driver of the other vehicle. These accident statements give a brief account of the circumstances of the accident, and then allows your insurance company to determine whose responsibility it was and the compensation that needs to be paid. This is common practice in France and should include written and graphic descriptions of the accident – but if you don’t understand what has been written, or do not agree with the other driver’s version of events, do not sign the form. It is an important document and may be used as evidence; 
  • If more than two cars are involved, each French driver will fill in a constat amiable;
  • Make a note of the other vehicle’s registration number and take the details of any witnesses.

The form

There are two sections of the form, one for each driver to complete and it’s important you check everything carefully (including registration plate numbers) and the right boxes have been ticked. If there’s a dispute over the cause of the collision you don’t want to accidentally agree with the other driver’s version of events.
 
Make sure you get these documents right the first time, matters can quickly get complicated if you change them because the constat is a legal document.
You can get an English version of the document here. It is a good idea to have blank copies of these accident reports in your car to fill out in case you are involved in an collision with another vehicle.
 

The constat is not compulsory, but while the police will not demand you complete one, your insurance company might, so it’s worth doing. If you don’t feel as though you understand the process or are concerned that your French is not strong enough, you should not feel pressured into signing the form.

Towing costs

If your vehicle needs to be towed after a collision on the motorway you must use an approved motorway breakdown service, for which you will be required to pay a government-set fee. 

For breakdown assistance requiring towing (to a rest or service area, to a garage or to a location chosen by the motorist), this rate varies according to the weight of the vehicle:

€131.94 for vehicles weighing less than or equal to 1.8 tonnes;

€163.15 for vehicles with a total weight greater than 1.8 tonnes and less than 3.5 tonnes.

If your vehicle can be repaired at the side of the road, you will be charged €131.94 plus parts.

These prices increase 50% if the emergency call was made between 6pm and 8am on weekdays, or at weekends or on public holidays.

What if you are in a collision and the other driver is uninsured?

You wouldn’t be alone. In 2020, some 27,332 drivers in France were involved in collisions in which the other motorist was not insured, according to figures from the Fonds de garantie des victimes (FGAO). Of those, 7,984 were injured in the incident, and 128 died.

Those figures are down on the previous year – as is the  €106.3 million the FGAO gave to those victims in compensation – but only because the Covid-19 pandemic, along with the confinements, working from home, and curfews to control it, cut road traffic levels in France.

There are strict rules for applying for compensation from the FGAO if you are involved in a collision with an uninsured motorist: the uninsured party must be at fault and the vehicle they were driving must be registered in France. You must live permanently in France, or be an EU/EEA citizen, or of Moroccan, Tunisian or Swiss nationality.

You can claim for personal injury regardless of whether the uninsured driver has been identified, but can only claim for damage to your vehicle or other property if they are identified.

To make a claim (your French insurers would probably do the bulk of the work for you) you need to fill in a compensation claim form – a copy (in English) is available here. Send it to the FGAO, along with a photocopy of your ID card, passport, or residency permit, and a photocopy of the police report (if this document is not in your possession, indicate the contact details of the authority that prepared it). If a police report is not available, a photocopy of the accident statement signed by both parties or an accident report accompanied by one or more witness accounts.

You will also need to supply medical reports if you required treatment for any injuries, and documents showing the cost of any repairs to your vehicle, if applicable.

French laws to know 

You have a “duty to rescue” a person in danger in France. If you deliberately fail to help someone in danger, you risk five years in prison and a fine of €75,000.

The law – non-assistance à personne en danger – essentially obliges you to help someone in danger if you are able to without putting yourself in danger. It means that, at the very least, you should call the police or gendarmes. You can do that by dialing 17 or 112 (if you are using a non-French mobile phone).

Five French words to know
 
une voiture – car 
 
un accident de voiture – car accident 
 
une panne – breakdown 
 
assurance – insurance 
 
une blessure – injury
 
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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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