LAST year the Antai fines treatment centre in Rennes issued 12.5 million PV penalty notices for drivers – but 25% of the offences were committed by foreign drivers and many fines went uncollected as a result.
That changes from this month as drivers must pay fines for offences committed in other EU countries under rules agreed by 24 of the 27 states.
Only the UK, Ireland and Denmark refused to sign the cross-border treaty, which could see an extra €100million being collected by the French government – pushing its total take from motoring offences to nearly one billion euros a year.
France has called for the treaty since 2008 as it has found foreign drivers are three times more likely to commit an offence as French drivers.
Of the foreign 25% who break the law, it said 9% of these were involved in fatal accidents.
It took until 2011 for a deal to be agreed and the countries had until November 7 to set up new procedures, although France already had reciprocal agreements in place with Luxembourg, Switzerland,
Belgium and Spain.
Jean-Jacques Fontaine of legal website droitissimo.com said France and Britain have also been discussing their own cross-border agreement, but no deal has been reached.
France has its own bad drivers and Germany, which had been holding out against the treaty, may be able to benefit from an extra 10,000 parking fines rung up by French drivers in Kehl, the German suburb of Strasbourg, where they make up 25% of total parking fines.
EU figures show that foreigners make up 5% of road-users in each country but are responsible for 15% of speeding offences.
This rises to 25% in popular tourist countries like France and here the figure climbs to 50% in summer.
The European directive covers eight offences: Drink driving, driving under the influence of drugs, speeding, running a red light, not wearing a seatbelt, motorcyclists not wearing a crash helmet, driving on the hard shoulder and using a mobile phone while driving.
Foreigners who are caught in the act of breaking the law, by a police unit on the road, may have to pay the fine on the spot or face having their vehicle impounded.
Those flashed by a speed camera will receive a fine in the post.
Police have access to the car ownership register in participating EU countries and will send penalty notices directly to offenders’ homes, written in their own language.
Foreign offenders will be fined the penalty payable in the host country but fines vary across Europe, with Germany levying €10 for a minor speed offence while France fines offenders €68 (or €45 if paid
The disparity grows even more for serious speeding offences where a driver doing 100kph in a 50kph zone will be fined €120 in Germany and lose three points from their licence but face a €135 fine in
France, four points off the licence, a three-year ban and possible seizure of the vehicle.
Due to the difference in penalty systems, no points will be taken off the licences of foreign drivers.
If the penalty is not paid the police force will send repeat notices with increased fines but there is no formal procedure to force payment at the moment.
The European Commission will move to introduce a system after 2016 when the application of the treaty is reviewed.
Foreign countries can ask for help from the offender’s home country, but any enforcement proceedings could see the fine going into that country’s coffers rather than the host’s.
The ultimate sanction for fine-dodgers would be that their names would be on a black list in the host country and being stopped there for any reason in the future could see their vehicle impounded and a heavier fine imposed.
How to lodge a challenge if you receive an automatic fine
IF YOU receive a French speeding ticket or other automatic fine, known as une amende forfaitaire, it is possible lodge a challenge against the charge but not the fine.
You have 45 days to act if you were not driving at the time or deny an offence took place.
The avis de contravention is sent to the carte grise holder of the vehicle and at the bottom there is a section listing three reasons to contest it.
1 – that your vehicle was stolen or the numberplates forged.
2 – that the vehicle was being used by another person at the time of the offence
3 – for any other reason: eg your parking ticket fell off or you moved on a red light to let an emergency vehicle pass.
If you are challenging in cases 1 and 2, fill in the form on the back of the avis but do not pay the fine as this admits the offence.
Points may automatically be docked from your licence and cannot be restored.
On speeding charges you can ask to see the photograph by writing to CACIR at the address on the back of the avis.
Your 45 days is not extended.
All challenges must be sent by recorded delivery letter to the address at the bottom of the avis but must be accompanied by the correct documents.
If you say your vehicle has been stolen or the plates copied then you must include a complaint
to the police about this.
If someone else was driving, then you should include a copy of their driving licence.
Case 3 challenges must be made by letter and accompanied by proofs of your claims such as witness statements, copy of the parking ticket etc.
You must ask directly for your case to be heard in court and you should take legal advice.
Keep copies of all documents.