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Forget Speeding in France

Mon, 03 May 2004
The increasing number of UK drivers being fined and arrested in France has prompted the RAC Foundation to warn visiting motorists that they could spend their holiday in court rather than Caen if they don’t ease off the accelerator and obey the rules of the road sur le Continent.

Over the Easter weekend, 110 UK motorists caught speeding on the A26 south of Calais incurred on the spot fines while seven Brits detected driving substantially in excess of the limit and two drink drivers were arrested and bailed to appear in court. According to reports, these drivers also had their licences and cars confiscated until their hearings.

In the future, offending drivers may meet even more serious deterrents if proposed new legislation aimed at cutting France’s road death toll is adopted by the British Government.

French authorities claim that ten per cent of all motoring offences are committed by foreigners and are desperate to bring down the high levels of road fatalities and injuries - double those in the UK. While serious offenders are prosecuted through the courts, the majority of misdemeanours - like speeding - are dealt with by on the spot fines of up to £200.

But now the French want to get even tougher on British drivers who speed and flout the law and have approached the UK Government and other European neighbours to sign up to a convention which would extend the powers of punishment to include penalty points and potential disqualification when motorists return home.

The Home Office is thought to be considering the plans sympathetically having already agreed to an Act stipulating that a British driver disqualified in a European country should also lose their licence here.

Edmund King, executive director of the RAC Foundation said:

"We already know that UK drivers are a fairly easy target – increasing numbers of them are receiving fines on French roads.

"The authorities are well aware that few people will actually go to the bother of contesting infringements. It is too difficult and expensive for them to return and defend themselves in French courts, they are more likely just to pay the fine and in future that may mean incurring penalty points too.

"Motorists should be aware, however, that being en vacances does not give them carte blanche to drive dangerously. Speeding and drink driving is not acceptable on either side of la manche."

It’s not just drivers in France who should exercise caution on the roads this year either. In Spain, from July, that age-old motoring chivalry - warning on coming drivers of the presence of police ahead - could leave UK visitors in hot water too as it becomes an offence to do so then.

"Holidaymakers should pack a vest along with their swimsuits and sun-cream as well if they are to avoid the long arm of the law in Spain", added King.

"From the same date, car drivers are required to wear a reflective waistcoat if they get out of the vehicle while stopped on a carriageway or at the side of a road outside of a built up area."

The ban on speed detection devices, widespread throughout mainland Europe, also extends to Spain from the summer when the installation and use of a radar detector becomes an offence.

Drivers with speed detection devices fitted to their cars can face a jail sentence, a driving ban, having their vehicle confiscated or paying a huge fine if they take them to many parts of Europe.

While the radar and laser detectors, which warn motorists of speed enforcement equipment in the vicinity, have been legal to own and use in the UK since 1999, many other European countries ban them and impose stringent sentences for having them fitted in the vehicle – even when they are not operational.

Punishment for carrying or using such a device can vary from possible imprisonment in Luxembourg and the Republic of Ireland, to the loss of licence

and car and a fine of up to £1000 in France.

"Many people will be travelling abroad over the next few months and should be extremely cautious if they have any kind of detection device fitted to their vehicle. While they are legal in the UK, they may not be in the country to which they are travelling.

"Always check with the consulate, tourist board or police of the country to which you are travelling before you go. But because legislation between states is so confusing, then the best advice is to leave them behind."

"Anyone diving abroad this year should be ultra cautious that they don’t contravene the local rules of the road. Holiday memories should be happy should regrette rien about your trip".

RAC Foundation Speed Detector Fact File:

Definitive information on the legality/illegality of using the devices in individual European and Scandinavian countries is difficult to establish but France, Belgium, Greece, Austria, Turkey, Switzerland, Luxembourg, Ireland, and Norway all operate bans and will shortly be joined by Spain. The best advice in other states is to either check with the local police before travelling or play safe and remove the device completely.
The harshest potential punishment is levied in Luxembourg where a custodial sentence of between eight days and three years is possible. The Republic of Ireland also deals harshly with offenders and a six month prison sentence is possible.
France, the country most likely to be visited by Brits, can deprive you of your car, licence and up to 1500 Euros if you are caught with a speed detection device.
Speed detection devices were illegal in the UK until 1999 when a decision by the High Court reversed the ruling, although the Government is proposing to make secondary legislation to ban their installation and use once again – creating an offence which would attract a maximum fine of £1000 and six penalty points.
Users tend to be high mileage drivers – typically business drivers who travel in excess of 22,000 miles a year, have high annual incomes, who live in rural or semi-rural areas and drive high performance vehicles.
60 per cent of those who use speed detection devices say that they have become safer drivers since purchasing detectors and three quarters indicate that they are more aware of speed limits in the areas in which they are driving – using them as a reminder to check their speed not as a device to allow them to speed with impunity.*


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