Claudia Dowell
Features Editor

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Love holidays in France? Make sure you don't come home with a fine, as French authorities crack down on speeding and emissions – read this before you go

Are you guilty of having edged over the speed limit in France to catch your ferry?

If so, you’re now going to have to allow more time, because the French traffic police are clamping down on speeding motorists.

The ‘Pelotons Motorisés’ (mobile anti-speeding units) are targeting autoroutes accessing the Channel ports, so take note on your holidays in France.

Check your speed

Regular visitors will have noticed that Radar Speed Check signs beside the road have been removed.

But the checks are still there, and the first indication a driver has that he or she has been detected exceeding the limit is when they are interviewed by the gendarmes at the next toll, which may be several miles on. There’s no escape.

Motorhome speedos are not precise: the width of the needle itself can cause errors and, because the police will quote speeds in 1km/h increments, it is wise not to drive at the indicated limit, but fractionally below it if you wish to drive as fast as the law allows.

You could also set your cruise control, if you have it, at just below the speed limit.

The fixed-penalty fines are laid out in the legislation. They are as follows:

Built-up areas:

  • 􏰀1-39km/h over the 50km/h limit – €90
      

Autoroutes:

  • 􏰀1-19km/h over the limit – €45 on-the-spot fine
  • 􏰀20-39km/h over the limit – €90 on-the-spot fine
  • 􏰀40-49km/h over the limit – €135 deposit + 3-day disqualification [a court case will be heard later, where the deposit will be taken as a fine and the disqualification may be extended]
  • 􏰀More than 50km/h over the limit – €750 deposit, plus disqualification; vehicle impounded and forfeited [this will be followed by a court case and the fine may be increased to €1500, or €3000 if the driver has previous convictions]
      

The above fines and additional penalties are invariably applied. Be in no doubt of the seriousness of speeding offences in France.

France gets hot on LEZs

France is slowly ratcheting up a new system designed to categorise and, on occasion, ban certain high-emissions vehicles from driving in its city centres.

The Crit’Air scheme – which requires drivers to display stickers or vignettes on their windscreens, based upon their vehicle’s emissions – has not been strictly enforced until recently.

But now, anyone driving into the centre of Paris (inside the Boulevard Périphérique), Grenoble or Lyon, and not displaying the appropriate sticker, could be liable to pay a fine of at least €68, and possibly much more.

It’s thought that as many as 20 other cities across the country could be looking to follow suit and join the scheme, so if you enjoy holidays in France, it is worth becoming acquainted with it.

Restricted Traffic Zones

There are six classifications, ranging from ‘zero’ (electric- and hydrogen-powered) to the worst polluters, elderly LCV diesels. The ‘Restricted Traffic Zones’, signed as ‘ZPA’, indicate where the restrictions apply and to which classifications.

The vignettes are colour-coded from green to black, and fortunately only cost around £3.50 from www.certificat-air.gouv.fr/en. To apply for one, you need to know your motorhome’s emissions standard, which should be in your ’van’s handbook or on its certificate of conformity.

Once you have acquired a vignette you are then safe to drive in, although the system does mean that on certain days, when pollution levels are high, local authorities can ban vehicles with the more polluting vignettes.

The obtaining and displaying of the windscreen sticker is entirely voluntary, and is only required if you plan to enter a ZPA zone. If you do not intend to drive into restricted city centres, you do not require one.

The vignette lasts the lifetime of the vehicle (or, at least, the lifetime of the windscreen) and, to prevent fraud, once applied the sticker cannot be removed without it tearing apart.

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