How to spot unmarked speed control cars on French roads

As unmarked police cars catch drivers speeding on French roads using infrared cameras, a new site is aiming to catalogue all unmarked "radar cars" currently being used in France.

13 August 2020
The wing mirror or a speeding car. How to spot unmarked speed control cars on French roads.Unmarked police radar cars target drivers travelling at “excessive” speeds.
By Joanna York

The site, radar-prive.fr, lists the cars used in each department, providing a photo of each car and showing their licence plates. 

Drivers who believe they have been photographed by an unmarked police car (voiture radar) can then go online and check if the vehicle they saw matches the description of any on the list. 

In the future, the site owners also plan to add maps showing common routes patrolled by police radar cars in each department.  

Unmarked cars currently patrol roads in Normandy, Brittany, Pays de la Loire and Centre-Val de Loire. 

However, from the end of 2020 they will also operate in Nouvelle-Aquitaine, Hauts-de-France, Bourgogne-Franche-Comté and Grand-Est.

How to spot an unmarked radar car when driving 

Although they are unmarked, there are a details that make it possible to spot an unmarked radar car while driving.

Here are some things to look out for:

  • A black rectangle underneath the licence plate on the front bumper. This is an infrared licence plate reader.
  • A black box on the dashboard. This is a camera to catch speeding cars.
  • Cameras visible at the bottom of the windscreen and rear window frame. These help read speed limits.
  • Drivers may be wearing police uniforms. However, police forces are increasing hiring civilian drivers to free up police time and increase the amount of patrols they are able to run.
  • The following models are often used: Renault Mégane, Dacia Sandero, Citroën Berlingo, Peugeot 208, 308 or 508, Ford Focus, Seat Leon, VW Passat and Golf 7.

How unmarked radar cars work

Unmarked radar cars use infrared flash cameras to photograph speeding cars, meaning the flash is not visible to drivers being photographed.

They target drivers travelling at "excessive" speeds. For speeds of less than 100kph, they capture cars going at 10 km over the recommended speed limit. At speeds of more than 100kph they capture cars going 10% faster than the recommended speed limit. 

In contrast, stationary radars - which are marked on roadsides - capture cars going at over 5kph when travelling under 100kph or 5% over the speed limit when travelling over 100kph.

Police officers driving unmarked radar cars do not deal with photos collected by cameras directly. 

Instead, encrypted data is sent from the cameras to a central bureau – the Centre Automatisé de Constatation des Infractions Routières (CACIR). Police officers working at CACIR analyse data sent and send avis de contravention (traffic violation notices) to drivers' home addresses as necessary.

Drivers who receive an avis de contravention must pay a fine depending on the speed limit and the speed they were travelling when photographed. They may also have points deducted from their licence.  

Related stories

Will I be fined if I drive in flip-flops in France?

Coronavirus: Driving rule changes in France 2020

Get news, views and information from France
You have 2 free subscriber articles left
Subscribe now to read unlimited articles and exclusive content
Already a subscriber? Log in now