France cracks down on speeding foreign drivers with 2.5 million tickets issued last year

France is continuing its crackdown on foreign drivers, with 2.5 million speeding tickets issued to foreign registered cars last year.

France cracks down on speeding foreign drivers with 2.5 million tickets issued last year

Of all the 12.5 million speeding tickets French authorities issued in 2019, one in five (2.5 million) were to drivers with foreign license plates.

If that sounds like a lot, it's actually less than the year before, when 25 percent of all speeders were foreign.

France has struggled for years to crack down on foreigners going rogue on its roads.

Since the country deployed speed cameras back in 2012, 21 percent of all violations were by foreign drivers, and in summer it rose to 50 percent – even though foreign drivers only represent 5-6 percent of the total traffic, according to the government's road security agency, Sécurité routière.

Catching the rogue drivers on camera was easy enough, but getting them to pay the fine that followed was long a difficult matter.

Enforcing fines and penalty notices once a foreigner has left French soil was a complicated process, until 2015 when a new EU law opened up information sharing within countries, which allowed for the legal pursuit of foreign nationals in their own country. 

Twenty countries in addition to France are now members; Denmark, Belgium, Spain, Germany, Netherlands, Poland, Romania, Italy, Luxembourg, Austria, Hungary, Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Ireland, Sweden and Portugal, and the United Kingdom. 

Switzerland and France also share information on speeding offenders but through a specific bilateral agreement.

In the case of the UK, the rules are being renegotiated as part of the Brexit deal.

READ ALSO Driving in France – what are the offences that net you points and fines?

Photo: Sécurité routière

What happens if I'm caught speeding in France?

Drivers caught breaking road rules France will receive a PV (procès-verbal), which is the technical French term for a fine.

If a camera or a police officer catch you speeding, you are supposed to – if your country is on the list above – get the fine sent to your home address in your home country. The fine will be translated to the language of your country, so no use in pretending like you don't understand French.

it seems that not everybody who gets flashed by a fixed camera gets their fine posted out, but 444,378 fines were issued to British drivers in France last year, so we wouldn't suggest you bank on them not catching up with you.

If you refuse to pay up, the matter is then passed to your home country, who enforce it the same way as for domestic speeders.

READ ALSO The ten places in France where you're sure to be caught speeding

Who are the most unruly foreign drivers in France?

That would be the Brits! Of those 2.5 million fines issued last year, British drivers received 444,378, according to a government report (although they're also the largest group of visitors to France, so maybe on a percentage basis they're not all that bad).

Belgians came second (295,899), then Spaniards (262,012), Germans (249,291) and Dutch (206,102).


Code de la route – traffic rules

Freiner – break

Infraction vitesse – speed violation 

Flashé – flashed (caught on camera)

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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.