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Simpler, cheaper, faster, younger: new French driving licence reforms

The government is reviewing a bill to both simplify and reduce the minimum age of applying for a French driving licence

As well as making the process easier, the French government is also thinking of lowering the age of licence application from 18 to 16 Pic: Phovoir / Shutterstock

A simplified process of getting a driving licence in France, including using contracted examiners to shorten the average 53-day wait for a test, is under review by the government. 

Lowering the age that a person can apply for their licence, from 18 to 16, is also on the table. 

The idea to streamline the process gained unanimous support during a vote by MPs in parliament in late March, though it has raised fears that ‘outsourcing’ will lead to a fall in road safety standards. 

Read more: Why I am in favour of tighter licence controls for drivers in France

‘Cheaper, simpler and faster’

Sacha Houlié, the MP who suggested the reforms, promises all future examiners will undergo thorough training and anticipates a “cheaper, simpler and faster” system for learner drivers in future. 

To that end, the bill also proposes the creation of a single digital platform listing existing financial aid available for those taking the test. 

The platform would be managed by the government and make it easier for learner drivers to discover the help to which they are entitled. 

The average candidate for a French driving licence currently pays about €1,800, including lessons and the theory and practical tests. 

Other proposed measures to lower this cost include extending the scope of the compte personnel de formation (CPF) – a state scheme that funds professional training. 

In future, it could include licences for motorbikes, small cars and trailers. 

Currently, using the CPF to finance driver training as part of a professional career is limited to ‘B licences’, for standard cars. 

Widening this, said Mr Houlié, is essential “for a good number of craftsmen or self-employed people.” 

Fears of insufficient training

Dismissing fears that contracted examiners would be insufficiently trained, Mr Houlié told Le Parisien: “The people recruited for the mission of inspectors, ie. those who will control fraud in the Code exam, and who will go to driving schools to see how the training is provided, will have to follow a six-month training course. 

Contracted staff recruited only to administer the exams will have to undergo two months of training.” 

Foreign nationals living in France are reminded that they might need to exchange their current licence for a French one. 

Generally, British drivers can continue to use UK licences issued by January 1, 2021, and which are still valid. 

Read more: Newcomers must not put off swap to French driving licence

When photocard licences are within six months of expiry, they must be exchanged for a French one. 

UK licences issued after January 1, 2021, will remain valid for one year after moving to France. 

Apply to exchange it before then. 

If you hail from a country with no licence-swap agreement in place, you will need to take a French driving test. 

This affects some American drivers, as not all US states have agreements with France.

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