For the 10 million or drivers who pass through Calais each year, several thousand are likely to be out of pocket or even out of their car if they are caught speeding in defiance of strict laws in France.
The police in the Pas de Calais area and particularly on the main auto routes are keen to catch those who break the speed limits and they have the power to make drivers pay. We have heard numerous accounts from British drivers who have been pulled over for speeding and made to pay an on the spot fine. One driver told us that he had had his driving licence confiscated at the side of the road within 20 minutes of driving into France.
Often the gendarmes are hidden off road with their high tech speed laser guns and they mean business.
The main A16 route from Calais which leads to Abbeville and on to Normandy is a favourite route for British drivers and it is here that you are likely to encounter problems if you break the law by speeding.
The motorway police (pelotons motorises) have the power to confiscate your car, make you pay there and then or to take your licence and give you an on the spot ban for driving in France. You will get your licence back but it can take weeks or even months. However, you may not get your car back, if the courts decide your speeding was reckless enough i.e. more than 50km over the limit, they will not return your car and may auction it off. If you don’t have cash, the police will take your passport and send you to a cash point to get cash.
The French police do not have to have photo evidence – if they say you were speeding then you have to prove you were not – and that’s not easy.
Don’t get caught out – know the requirements and keep to them.
Penalties for speeding in France
The penalties for speeding in France vary according to the speed drivers were travelling at when apprehended. In town and cities fines are set at €90 for 1-39kph above the 50kph limit. On faster roads, including autoroutes, the following penalties apply:
1-19kph (up to 12mph) over limit: €45 on-the-spot fine.
20-39kph (12-24mph) over limit: €90 on-the-spot fine.
40-49kph (25-30mph) over limit: €135 court deposit and instant three-day driving ban in France. This is followed by a court case, often several months later, when the ban could be extended for up to three years (two or three months is typical). The court retains the deposit as a fine unless the driver successfully argues it was wrongly imposed.
More than 50kph over limit (31mph-plus): €750 court deposit and car impounded. This is followed by a court case. If the motorist is deemed to have been driving dangerously, their car can be permanently confiscated. The court can retain the deposit and increase the fine to €1,500, or €3,000 for repeat offenders.
Reminder: you must carry a high vis jacket, triangle and other items in your car at all times or face a fine – here’s our handy checklist for driving in France
Driving in France – the rules
Motorway and toll roads in France
Priorite a droite – giving priority to traffic coming from the right, its an odd rule but you needn’t be caught out