With the Easter travel rush almost upon us, online car hire
is advising travellers driving in France to take
extra care, as the French government looks to implement new prosecution
measures for British visitors committing driving offences.
The changes being discussed would co-ordinate the prosecution process and
could see British motorists receiving penalty points on their licences for
any driving offences that may be committed in France. While a final
decision is still to be made, it has raised concerns over motorists
admitting guilt rather than challenging a conviction in a foreign language.
Doug Scott, managing director of carrentals.co.uk, said: “Wherever you drive
on holiday it is important to find out about the rules and regulations that
apply to that particular country as they can vary significantly. The plans
of the French government are aimed at preventing dangerous drivers remaining
on the roads in both France and the UK, however there are some serious
concerns about the ability of drivers to defend themselves and appeal
“With around 12 million British visitors a year to France, many will be
unfamiliar with the language - particularly to the level required to
challenge a fine or conviction. If this legislation is to go ahead there
must be clear detail to protect British citizens from unduly severe
punishments due to variations in national law or language barriers.”
French driving laws differ in a number of ways to UK laws, and it could be
expensive and difficult for a UK citizen to appeal against charges. New
penalties have already been introduced in France for a range of driving
offences, in particular drink-driving and speeding offences, which are far
more rigorously enforced than many British travellers may think.
The maximum level of alcohol permitted in the bloodstream in France is now
50mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood, compared to the UK where the legal
alcohol limit when driving is 80mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood.
Speed limits in France can be complicated, for example reduced speeds apply
in wet weather and for foreign drivers who have held their licences for
under two years. It is also worth noting that foreign drivers who exceed the
speed limit by more than 25kph (16mph) can have their licences confiscated.
French driving laws also state that children under the age of 10 and/or
under 1.5m/5ft tall are not allowed to travel in the front seat unless they
are placed in an approved fitted seat facing backwards. Both front and back
seat passengers must wear seat belts.
If driving your own car from the UK, remember that right-hand-drive cars
must be fitted with headlamp deflectors; and driving with faulty bulbs is
illegal, so drivers are advised to carry spares.
In France heavy on-the-spot fines can be imposed for motoring offences and
failure to pay can result in the car being impounded or the driving licence
Scott added: “While the co-ordinated prosecution with the UK is still in its
early phases, it offers a strong incentive for British motorists to find out
more about overseas driving regulations and pay extra attention to their
driving etiquette, particularly as we move towards the peak holiday seasons.
The last thing anyone wants is a holiday spoiled by a driving offence that
could have a wide reaching impact.”