Drivers in France could no longer be docked points from their licence in the event of a small speeding offence, the government has said.
Interior Ministry figures show that 58% of speed fines issued in France are due to drivers going just 5km/h above the limit.
Driving associations have long called for points to no longer be taken from licences in the event of “small speed excesses”, but until now the ministry has been strongly opposed to the idea.
However, a statement issued this week said: “The Ministry of the Interior is currently considering the possibility of no longer deducting points from the driving licences of motorists guilty of minor speeding offences.”
It is thought likely that drivers who are found to be doing 5km/h or less over the speed limit will no longer be docked a point from their licence and will only have to pay the standard fine. No date for the change has yet been confirmed.
We understand this to be after the standard error margin deduction of 5-6.6kph (depending on speed limit zone) that is already taken off recorded speeds to calculate the speed drivers are doing before they are fined or docked points.
Figures show that in 2020, 7.2 million fines were issued for small excesses in speed, versus 4.7 million in 2010. The peak so far was in 2017 when almost 10 million were issued.
Due to the error margin applied before fines are issued, the ministry stated that "the official reports issued for exceeding the maximum authorised speed by 1km/h, therefore correspond to recorded speeds of more than 6km/h in relation to the speed limit.”
Drivers with a foreign licence in France who are found to have committed an offence in France that is punished by a loss of points, should exchange their foreign licence for a French one so the points can be deducted.
French licences usually start with 12 points, and points are deducted for offences.
‘A real break’ but ‘could go further’
Drivers’ association 40 millions d’automobilistes has welcomed the news of a change.
It said: “[This announcement] marks a real break with the road safety policy of Emmanuel Macron's first term in office, which was responsible for the 80km/h speed limit and the rampant increase in all types of speed cameras.”
President of the association Daniel Quéro has also called for the new prime minister Élisabeth Borne to repeal the 80km/h measure that her predecessor Édouard Philippe brought in country-wide on a large part of the road network.
Read more: 37 French departments reinstate 90km/h limit
He said that the decrease had caused “many drivers to be out of line”, and called for a return to 90km/h everywhere.
The association’s general delegate, Pierre Chasseray, has even called for the government to go further, and stop punishing these small speed offences at all – not even with the fine. The standard fine for most speeding offences is €135, or €68 for going less than 20km/h over the limit in zones with a limit over 50km/h.
‘Speed limits meet a safety need’
But road safety associations have dismissed this idea, saying that it would send a very bad signal to drivers, who could be tempted to drive even faster.
Anne Lavaud, general delegate at the Prévention routière association, said: “It is a misnomer to talk about ‘minor speeding’. A speed limit is imposed because it meets a safety need.”
She added that the system had already been made more flexible in 2011 when it was decided that a removed single point from a licence would be restored if no more offences took place in the next six months.
Ms Lavaud said that this rule already meant that a “balance has been found”.
Political opponents have said that the government’s change in direction on the issue is purely for political reasons.
Jordan Bardella, president of the far-right RN, told France 2: “We were the first in politics to call for the end of the points system, explaining that motorists are not cash cows.”
He added that while he would be in favour of the measure, he said that “dropping taxes on fuel” is “obviously the priority”.
President of right-wing Les Republicains, Christian Jacob, also said that the measures were “rather a good thing that are going in the right direction”, but said that the €135 fine must be “absolutely kept”, otherwise “there is no more limit”.
However, he said that there is good reason to doubt some announcements during a political period and that President Emmanuel has previously shown “lots of space” between “words and actions”.