France to issue ‘virtual licences’ to combat rogue foreign motorists

7th October 2015

Citroen 2CV

French Prime Minister, Manuel Valls, has recently announced 22 measures to tackle a rise in road-related deaths in France.

Amongst the measures, which include the installation of 500 additional speed cameras across the country and making bicycle helmets a compulsory requirement for children under 12, is the proposed issue of “virtual driving licences” for foreign drivers - many of whom are currently escaping the long term consequences of disobeying French road laws.

The virtual licences will be used to track violations, so that repeat offenders can be banned and their vehicles confiscated if they are found to be flouting a ban. The licences will also be used create a black list of foreign drivers who fail to pay motoring fines.

As Britain opted out of a 2011 EU Directive on road safety - which facilitates the cross border exchange of information on road safety related traffic offences - British motorists caught on cameras are not currently pursued by French authorities. However, the police in France are able to impose on-the-spot fines to British drivers caught violating road laws.

In February this year, Britain did however approve a subsequent directive that will enable police in other EU countries to access British motorists’ details from the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) for the first time. This will mean that by May 2017 – the time the UK has been given to implement the necessary changes - British drivers caught on camera exceeding speed limits in France and other EU countries will no longer be able to avoid fines.

The virtual driving license will function “like a driving license with French penalty points”, the government noted, without going into further detail, other than to say the move was part of a bid to “restore the equal treatment between French and foreign drivers”.

However, Head of the French Drivers’ organisation ‘40 Million d’Automobilistes’, Pierre Chasseray attacked the proposal, saying: “It’s a nice image that French people are all angels and the problem is foreign drivers, but I don’t like this kind of message.”

“I don’t have any desire to make other people the culprits, especially the thousands of tourists who come to France, it’s mean to do that,” he added.

A worrying rise in road accidents

Last year road traffic accidents in France increased for the first time in 12 years and in July this year, they were 20% higher than the same month in 2014.

Road deaths rose by 3.5% last year to 3,384 people, despite government targets to decrease the annual death toll to 2,000 by 2020.

Although foreign drivers make up only 6.7% of France’s road users, they were involved in 3.13million (12.5%) traffic offences last year. According to The Local, foreign license holders responsible for 4.5 million speeding tickets last year alone - that's 5,139 per hour and around 21% of the total speeding fines in the country.

The worst offenders were the Belgians, followed by the Spanish, the Germans, and the Italians.

The French police say many foreign drivers break speed limits because they know they can avoid fines.

It is hoped that the proposed changes will help to reverse the worrying rise in road accidents.

Other proposed measures

Amongst other measures proposed by Mr Valls are tougher sentences for drivers of uninsured vehicles and those who drive on false licenses and more widespread use of ignition interlock devices, or car breathalysers, for drink-drive offenders.

Companies will also be required to communicate the name of employees who commit a traffic offence in a company vehicle, or face a €650 (£480) fine.

“The roads of France cannot be a cemetery,” the Prime Minister said. He also announced the country would introduce 10,000 “fake” speed cameras to scare motorists into slowing down and experiment with drones to keep an aerial lookout for dangerous drivers.

Private contractors will also be employed to operate mobile radars.

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