If you’re heading to France in your car this summer, beware. French police are more likely to pursue British drivers than any other EU country.
The new stats come from a freedom of information request via Alcosense Breathalysers, they show that three-quarters of all requests for drivers details in the last five months alone were from France. These totalled a whopping 246,138 motorists between February and June alone; Europe as a whole only made 325,145 requests.
Germany came in second place, requesting the details of 22,845 from the DVLA, a number that almost pales into insignificance compared to the French. Italy followed with 16,993 requests, Spain 13,442 and Austria 6,875. The jump in numbers is due to the reasonably new ‘Mutual Legal Assistance’ scheme, which was signed in 2017, this allows authorities across Europe to pursue British drivers who have broken the law while abroad.
It’s not just speeding that’s catching us Brits out, although you need to be careful as the tolerances are half of what we have in the UK on major French roads and motorways. I was caught earlier this year for driving 121 km/h in a 110 km/h zone, a difference of 7 miles per hour and was sent a fine for €45. It’s an easy mistake to make, especially when the limits on their motorways change so frequently, knowing how hot they are on it I was hawk-eyed on the speedo the whole time I was away and yet still got caught out.
Other offences you need to be careful of are the drink-drive laws, in France, the limit is just 0.5mg of alcohol per mL of blood, here it’s 0.8mg, Poland,and Sweden have just 0.2mg. Russia, Slovakia, Hungary and the Czech Republic have a zero-tolerance approach, something that’s long been advocated for here in the UK.
This recent upsurge from France is most likely due to the years they weren’t allowed to pursue British drivers, you could often speed, get caught by a camera and get away with it scot-free. If you happened to be unlucky, then a Gendarme may pull you over in a marked car and confiscate your licence until you pay a hefty fine. Now with the law changing it seems the French are making up for lost revenue.
It’s also now illegal to use Bluetooth headsets, hands-free devices and headphones while driving. If you’re caught, there’s a rather nasty €135 fine coming your way.
Oh, and you’re also not allowed speed camera detectors of any sort, that includes the built-in ones on your sat nav, failing to disable them could land you a €1,500 fine.
Again, it happened to myself a few years back, I was pulled over for apparently driving through a stop sign even though I stopped and the way was clear. Thankfully I had the required kit for them to box check, and I was sent on my way.
What to pack when driving in France:
Your licence – You need a full UK drivers licence to drive in France and the EU.
Proof of ownership – A copy of your V5C showing you own the car, if it’s a lease car obtain it from the leasing company.
Insurance – Print out a copy of your insurance, or your extended EU insurance if it’s a separate purchase.
Passport – To prove who you are.
International Driving Permit – You’ll need one of these when we leave the EU on October 31st 2019, they can be purchased from your local Post Office.
Warning triangle – Many cars have these included as standard these days, check your breakdown kit.
High-vis jackets for all occupants – These are cheap enough to purchase online and essential to keep yourself safe at home and abroad.
Breathalyser – You’ll need two, and they must be ‘NF’ or French Government certified, it’s debatable whether you strictly need these as the fine for not having them has been made null and void since 2013. But better to be safe than sorry.
Beam deflectors – Many motorists still don’t do this, but to prevent dazzle to oncoming vehicles at night they need to be on your headlights and in the right place.
GB plate – If your car doesn’t have a GB sticker on the plate you need to buy one, the plate flags may also become worthless when we leave the EU so best do both just in case.
Most of the above you can buy in kit form, saving you the hassle of purchasing each bit individually. Most come in a handy bag that you can sling in the boot and forget about, just make sure you have enough high-vis jackets for everyone travelling.