SHARE
COPY LINK
For members

DRIVING

Driving in France: What are the offences that cost you penalty points on your French licence?

French drivers don't exactly have the best reputation, but that doesn't mean that there are no rules in place on the roads in France. Here's a guide to driving offences and how many points they will cost you if you have a French licence.

Driving in France: What are the offences that cost you penalty points on your French licence?
Don't risk losing points from your driving licence. Photo: AFP

The first thing to note is that the points system in France is based on deduction – while in the UK you start with a 'clean' licence and have points added on if you commit offences, drivers in France have points taken off.

Newly qualified drivers in France start off with six points on their licence and get an extra two for every year that they don't commit any traffic offences until they reach the maximum number of 12.

READ ALSO Why you really do have to stop at a 'stop' sign in France


Don't get caught doing something you shouldn't by the gendarmes. Photo: AFP

If you exchange a foreign licence for a French one you start off with the maximum 12 (unless French authorities have on record any driving offences on your British licence), but if you are in a situation where you have to take a test in France you will start off with six.

Points are then deducted for traffic offences until you reach zero – at which point your licence can be taken away.

Not that tourists driving on foreign licences in France are subject to fines but not penalty points. Those living in France but driving with an EU licence are normally forced to exchange it for a French one if they commit a serious driving offence (but this often depends on the gendarmes). It's also possible that the penalty points on a foreign licence are stored on a database and then deducted when the driver exchanges the licence for a French one, but again this is not done across the board.

So what can you lose points for in France?

Drinking

Drink drive limits in France are lower than many other countries, which can catch visitors out. The limit is 0.5 grams per litre of blood, equivalent to just one small glass of wine or beer. For learner drivers the limit is 0.2 g/l.

France has a bit of a problem with drink drivers, especially in rural areas where it is often seen as socially acceptable and you will frequently see people do it. However that doesn't mean that it's legal and saying that everyone else in the bar was also about to drive will cut no ice at all with the gendarmes if you get stopped.

  • Driving with a blood alcohol of 0.5g/l to 0.8g/l is a class four infraction while the offences below all count as a crime. But it will still earn you 6 points off your licence
  • Driving with blood alcohol of more than 0.8g/l or in a state of obvious drunkenness – 6 points
  • Refusing to submit to a breathalyser or blood test – 6 points
  • Driving after drug use or refusing to take a drug test – 6 points
  • Failure to comply with a requirement to drive a vehicle fitted with a breathalyser – 6 points.

This last offence is a relatively new one. In 2019 a new law was introduced which allowed drink drivers in certain circumstances the choice between either losing their licence immediately or agreeing to have their car fitted with an ignition breathalyser which will not allow the car to be started unless the driver has provided a clear breath test.

Drivers must pay out of their own pocket (about €1,000) to have them fitted and during the agreed period must not be caught behind the wheel of any car that does not have the device fitted.


Fixed speed cameras are becoming a lot more common in France. Photo: AFP

Speeding

Breaking the speed limit will also net you points, especially in areas where there are lots of speed cameras, and how many points you lose depends on how much you were exceeding the speed limit by.

  • Breaking the limit by less than 20 km/h – 1 point
  • Breaking the limit by more than 20km/h if the limit is under 50km/h – 1 point
  • Breaking the limit by between 20km/h and 30km/h – 2 points
  • Breaking the limit by between 30 km/h and 40 km/h – 3 points
  • Breaking the limit by between 40km/h and 50 km/h – 4 points
  • Breaking the limit by more than 50 km/h – 6 points
  • Possession, transport or use of any equipment designed to disrupt or detect speed controls – 6 points

The above generally refers to speed camera detecting radars or phone apps but in some areas, especially rural ones, you will see drivers flashing their lights at you to warn that gendarmes are up ahead with a speed camera and this too is technically illegal. 

It's also worth pointing out that if you'redoing something particularly ridiculous like driving at 90 km/h past a children's playground while watching a video on your phone this would come under the heading of dangerous driving, which can attract much stiffer penalties.

READ ALSO: Why being a pedestrian is a high-risk activity in Paris

Traffic and parking offences

You might see some of these committed on a more or less daily basis, particularly if you live in Paris, but they are in fact illegal

  • Driving on an unbroken white line on the road – 1 point
  • Accelerating while someone is trying to overtake you – 2 points
  • Driving in the left hand lane (fast lane) on a dual carriageway when the right hand lane is free – 3 points
  • Dangerous overtaking – 3 points
  • Crossing an unbroken white line on the road – 3 points
  • Not respecting a safe distance between vehicles – 3 points
  • Changing direction without indicating – 3 points
  • Driving on emergency lanes (hard shoulder) – 3 points
  • Dangerous parking – 3 points
  • Use of a handheld mobile phone while driving, or a phone with headphones (using a hands-free kit that connects to the car's speakers is OK) – 3 points
  • Refusing to give way to a driver who has priority – 4 points


READ ALSO How does France's 'priorité a droite' rule work?

  • Going through a red light, a stop sign or give way sign without stopping – 4 points
  • Driving in a forbidden area (eg a pedestrianised zone) – 4 points
  • Driving at night without sufficient lighting – 4 points
  • Failure to give way to a pedestrian who is on a crossing, or a pedestrian at a crossing who clearly intends to cross – 6 points
  • Driving while disqualified or suspended – 6 points
  • Accidental injury to a person causing them to lose three months or more of work – 6 points


She is clearly intending to cross, so you must give way or risk a traffic offence. Photo: AFP

Others

  • Failure to wear a seat belt – 3 points
  • Failure to respect the transparency of windows or windscreen (ie having too dark a tint) – 3 points
  • Transporting more passengers than the vehicles has places for – 3 points 

Source: Service-publique.fr

Dangerous driving

And of course dangerous driving is an offence as well.

The French Highway Code, Article R412-6, states: “The driver must at all times adopt a cautious and respectful behaviour vis-à-vis other road users, particularly vulnerable road users.

“Every driver must be constantly in a state of readiness and in a position to execute all the manoeuvres required of him/her immediately.

“His/her freedom of movement and field of vision must not be reduced by the number or position of passengers, by the objects carried or by the affixing of non-transparent objects to the windows.”

So things like eating, smoking and putting on make-up at the wheel are not illegal, but if an officer judges that you are not in control or your vehicle you could face a fine of up to €150. In extreme cases police can also seize your vehicle.

Fines

As well as getting points on your licence, most of the offences above will also earn you a fine ranging from €33 for the least serious offences to €1,500 for the most serious – or €3,000 if you are a repeat offender. Swift payment can reduce the amount to be paid for some classes of offence.

If you have lost enough points that you are in danger of losing your licence, you can apply to go on a two-day driver re-education course. You pay a fee to attend – between €100 and €200 depending on where you are –  but if you complete the course to the satisfaction of the instructor you can have some points cancelled. 

READ ALSO France finally scraps law forcing drivers to keep breathalyser kits in cars

Breathalysers

One thing that is not illegal in France, however, is not having your own portable breathalyser kit in the car. This was initially proposed as a law, but was never subject to a fine. It has since been quietly dropped and now drivers no longer have to carry disposable breathalysers in their cars.

Reckon you're fully up to speed with the rules of the road in France? Take our quiz on French road signs.

 

 

 

 

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.
For members

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.

SHOW COMMENTS