Speeding British drivers may lose their driving licence
This is a reprint of an article by Charles Bremmer in the Times
on 27th October 2000 which will be of particular interest to V8
enthusiasts driving in France, not least during their visit to the
24 heures du Mans sports car endurance race in June.
drivers who are stopped for exceeding any French speed limit by
more than 25mph will lose their licences on the spot and find themselves
unable to complete their journeys without a substitute driver, under
draconian new laws announced in France in October 2000.
ruling makes foreign licence-holders subject to the same immediate
ban as French motorists under the confiscation measure, which was
previously only applied to drink-drivers. Police will have discretionary
powers on whether or not to confiscate licences but the French Ministry
of Transport said that no distinction would be made between French
and foreign drivers. This means, for example, that anyone caught
speeding on a main road through a village at more than 56mph will
face instant licence confiscation and fines.
Automobile Association said that visiting drivers now risked having
their holidays ruined if they flouted the law. Richard Freeman,
an AA spokesman, said "It's something for tourists to worry
about. If there is no one with you who can drive the car, then you
will have to pay to have it brought back to the UK. This costs between
£500 and £2,500. No insurance company is going to cover
that because it would be considered negligence."
French ban of up to three months was comparable to penalties imposed
by British magistrates, he said, but in France the licence would
be lost on the spot. The confiscation is provisional pending a court
hearing which can suspend the licence for up to three years for
a first offence or annul the licence on a second offence.
the time being, foreign licences will be returned when the holder
leaves the country, following international practice, but French
driving bans will soon be enforced across the European Union under
a 1998 convention on the mutual recognition of licence suspension
that has yet to be ratified.
drivers will face the standard £900 fine for a high-speed
offence as French drivers. A second offence carries a three month
jail term and a £2,200 fine. French speed limits range from
50kph (31mph) in built-up areas to 130kph (81mph) on motorways in
motorists caught speeding in Britain will find the penalties are
far less draconian. The courts have no power to give foreign speedsters
penalty points, although for serious speeding offences they can
be fast-tracked through the courts and fined or disqualified. France's
heavy fines and possible prison terms for "very high speed"
were introduced earlier this year (2000). Jean-Claude Gayssot, the
Transport Minister, announced them along with a battery of other
measures that reflect a determination to get to grips with the French
culture of reckless driving.
French Government wants to halve the country's 8,000 annual deaths
on its roads, which would bring the rate down to that of Britain,
usually cited as a model of road safety, and the Nordic states.
M Gayssot said he did not believe the French were ordained by destiny
to drive too fast and disobey the rules of the road. France has
the most dangerous roads in the European Union after Portugal and
Greece according to EU statistics."
This article is a prudent reminder of the need to drive carefully
in France, bearing in mind both their higher accident rate and that
as British drivers' our conditioned reflexes are set up for left
hand driving on UK roads. Most V8 enthusiasts will enjoy driving
in France for the sense of space and the relatively low levels of
traffic on both major and minor roads and will also want time for
enjoying the lifestyle and good food en route. The autoroutes are
good but can be alarming roads once traffic densities reach a level
at which French drivers tend to harry you by very close tailgating.
This is particularly the case on twin lane roads where pulling into
the nearside lane littered with camions can make journeys very frustrating.
The alternative is to get out the Michelin maps and take to the
secondary roads where the scenery is often far better and driving
far more relaxed for gentle burbling with V8 power.
Footnote (5.2.04): Even more draconian measures were reported
in the Times on 5th February 2004
acknowledged by the V8 Register of the MG Car Club, PO Box 251,
Abingdon-on-Thames, Oxfordshire OX14 1FF