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DRIVING

Reader question: What should I do if my French driving licence application is still pending?

A combination of post-Brexit confusion and French administrative delays mean that many foreign residents in France have been waiting for many months (or even years) in a queue to exchange their driving licence for a French one.

Reader question: What should I do if my French driving licence application is still pending?
The UK-France deal on driving licence exchanges allows Britons living in France to continue driving. Photo by Thomas Samson | AFP

Some people’s licences have even expired while they were waiting, leaving them stranded.

In good news, a post-Brexit deal has finally been agreed between the British and French governments, so that exchanges can begin again.

The general Brexit confusion has meant delays to applications for all licence swaps, not just UK licences, as officials struggled to cope with thousands of applications.

So if you’re waiting, what should you do?

If you are waiting to swap a non-UK licence – just wait. Now that an agreement has been reached for UK licences things can start moving again, but there is still a backlog of applications to clear. All applications for swap foreign licences go through the same office in Nantes, so the Brexit chaos has unfortunately had a knock-on effect on other licences too.

If you’re waiting to swap a UK licence 

There is now a new set of criteria, so not all UK licence holders in France need to swap just yet.

The deal says that anyone whose licence was issued before January 1st, 2021 can continue driving on it until the licence or the accompanying photocard expires.

The people who need to apply to exchange their licence are:

  • Anyone who has a UK licence issued after January 1st, 2021. This must be done within one year.
  • Anyone whose licence expires within the next six months. This can refer to either the expiry of the licence itself – for example if you are approaching your 70th birthday – or the expiry of the photocard, whichever comes first. Please note that applications to swap licences that have more than six months left on them will be rejected.
  • Anyone whose licence has been lost or stolen
  • Anyone whose licence has already expired. Because of the long-running problems with exchanging some people’s licences ran out while they were waiting. The French government has agreed that these can be exchanged for a French licence and drivers will not need to retake a driving test
  • Anyone who is ordered to exchange their licence by a gendarme after committing a driving offence

If you have previously made an application and received an application number, the advice is just to wait.

If you do not fit the new criteria your application will be rejected and you can continue to drive on your UK licence.

If you do fit the criteria, your application will be processed. You will hear from authorities either asking for extra documentation or – if your application is complete – asking you to send in your old UK licence.

Once you send in your old licence you receive an Attestation de Depot de Permis de Conduire, and you can use this as proof of your right to drive until your new French licence arrives.

Unfortunately, we do not know how long the exchange process is likely to take.

If your licence expired while you were waiting, it can still be exchanged.

For more information on exchanging your UK driving licence for a French one click here

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DRIVING

What to do if you are hit by an uninsured driver in France?

Nearly 23,000 people across France were involved in a road accident with an uninsured motorist in 2021 - so here is what you need to know about being compensated in this situation.

What to do if you are hit by an uninsured driver in France?

For Julien Rencki, the head of the victims solidarity insurance fund, estimates that there are a little less than one million uninsured drivers on French roads, and he expects the number of incidents between uninsured and insured drivers to grow once more.

“In the first six months of 2022, we had already taken care of 15,000 victims, including more than 5,000 with physical injuries,” Rencki told French daily Le Parisien.

So in the not unlikely event that you are hit by an uninsured drover, what should you do?

First, you should check to see whether you are insured “against all risks” with your vehicle insurance. If so, your insurer will be required to compensate you for both injury and property damage.

READ MORE: Seven need-to-know tips for cutting the cost of car insurance in France

You should also check to see whether your plan with your insurance company has a “defence-recovery” clause (this would cover the cost of legal proceedings in the event of a dispute). 

However, if you have a partial coverage plan (in French this is: assurée qu’au tiers) and you are not entitled to compensation with your insurance company, then you can still be entitled to compensation thanks to the victim’s fund (FGA) – an association that exists to provide compensation to victims, including those of road accidents in scenarios where the perpetrator was uninsured.

In fact, if you or the passengers in your car were injured and the police intervened, and it was noted that the person responsible was uninsured or fled, then the officers would have been required to send a report to the victim’s fund. You would be able to access this on their website HERE.

To apply for this financial assistance, you will need to fill out a claim form, and provide identification as well as a copy of the police or gendarmerie report. If you do not have the latter, you can also send a copy of the accident report, as long as it was signed by both parties, or an accident statement with witness signatures. This will serve as proof that you were not at fault in the accident.

You have up to three years to appeal to the FGA.

If you are given an offer for compensation, then you can either accept or refuse it. 

READ MORE: Driving in France: Understanding the new French traffic laws

The rules on car insurance in France

In France, motorists are required to have third-party insurance, and anyone who drives without insurance risks penalties, such as a fine of up to €3,750, a licence suspension for up to three years, or the confiscation of your vehicle. Penalties may be more severe depending on how long the person is proven to have driven without a licence. 

Additionally, for the motorist without insurance, if they are responsible for an accident, they can still be required to pay the victim’s fund if indemnities are paid to the victim. These fees can amount to several thousand euros.

Vehicle insurance companies are seeking to find ways to encourage the uninsured to sign up for plans, as many cite high costs as the reason they do not have insurance. 

For instance, in September, several insurance companies set up ‘inflation packages’ to help young or unemployed drivers afford car insurance, reported Le Parisien.

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