More than three-quarters of a million people in France are thought to be driving regularly without a driving licence, a new study suggests, with these drivers involved in 6% of fatal accidents last year.
Figures from the latest road security report show that in 2019, 770,000 people were driving regularly without a valid licence in France.
This represented an 18% rise compared to 2018, and a 54% rise compared to the figures for 2014.
The report: “In 2020, 6% of drivers involved in a fatal accident and 3.5% of those in an accident that caused severe injury were driving without a valid licence”.
These figures have risen by 2.2 percentage points and 1.3 percentage points respectively since 2010, it added.
(Although there are some cars that can be legally driven without a licence in France, the study only considered vehicles for which a full licence is required.)
Out of the 2,550 road deaths counted last year – an historically low number due to the pandemic lockdowns keeping people off the roads – 220 people were “killed in an accident with a driver without a licence; 9% of the people killed”.
Of the fatal accidents recorded, half of drivers without a licence were also over the alcohol driving limit, said the national road safety observatory l'Observatoire national interministériel de la sécurité routière (ONISR).
Why are people driving without a licence?
Some of those said to be driving without a licence are doing so because they either consider it too expensive and difficult to get one, or they have declined to get another licence after losing all of their points*, or after having had their licence confiscated by police or a court, according to Le Parisien.
It comes amid a wider context of increased crackdowns on driving behaviour, including increased numbers of speed cameras, which contribute to the loss of almost 100,000 licences being suspended due to points being taken off, according to driving association 40 millions d’automobilistes.
Driving without a licence runs the risk of up to a year in prison and a fine of €15,000.
In case of an accident, insurance will not cover drivers who are driving without a licence, and the perpetrator may be forced to pay compensation to their victim in addition.
The insurance fund le Fonds de Garantie des Assurances Obligatoires de dommages (FGAO) told Le Parisien: “The FGAO will compensate the victim but will turn to the responsible perpetrator to claim reimbursement of the sums paid.”
The FGAO cited the example of a driver who was required to pay €30 per month over six years to their victim who they injured in a road accident.
*In France, driving licences have a certain number of points that are taken away in case of an offence, in contrast to the UK where points are added in case of an offence.