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French speeding tickets; received notices more than 46 days past date of issue (Nov. 25, 2019)

My wife and I were in France in late September and early October (our first visit); rented a car for part of the visit; and just today (Jan. 25, 2020) received notice of two different speeding tickets. Of course the notices are in French and I have no competence in reading or speaking French. It appears that the fine would be 45 Euros per ticket if paid within 46 days of the issuance of the tickets; but the fine would be 68 Euros if paid before 76 days had expired.

I accept the legitimacy of the tickets and would like to make payment online using a credit card, but don't know how to address the fact that the tickets were not received in a timely way. Any suggestions on how best to handle this would be appreciated. I'll pay the 68 Euros per ticket before I'll go to too much trouble to address the late notice issue.

Thanks.

Posted by
208 posts

I am thinking of taking a car trip through the Dordogne in September.

Where were you when you got these tickets? Both what area, and what kind of road?

Were these tickets issued based on cameras?

How much over the speed limit were you allegedly going?

(For those who know) How much of an issue is this in general?

I have taken driving trips through various areas in Europe in the last 10 years (Portugal, Provence, Slovenia/Croatia, England/Scotland, Sweden) and never had an issue. Is this something one has to worry about now?

Posted by
11 posts

Matt,

Both tickets were camera tickets. One was 97 in a 90 and the other 96 in an 80. One was in / near Reims; the other Le Chatre. I really can't speak to the other questions you raised.

My issues revolve around payment, esp. not being penalized for late receipt of the tickets.

Enjoy your trip!

Bob

Posted by
905 posts

We received a speeding ticket from our trip last November. There’s a website for paying the ticket online. The website has an English option. Enter in your ticket number and another # (directions are on the website). The amount due will populate. It’s very easy. I think you get more time to pay the lesser amount if you pay online. I only paid 45 €.

As for the timeliness of it, it appears that the police have to go through the car rental company to get your info to send you the citation. This could impact how fast they can contact you. You may have received a charge on your credit card for this “help” from the car rental company.

Posted by
905 posts

Matt,

Our ticket was for going 6 km/h over the limit. It was by camera. The ticket says they can fine for going 1 km over the limit. This was on N13 outside Isigny-sur-mer. This is the only highway (2 lanes each way) in the area. There was no traffic while we were there, we hardly ever saw other cars at all.

I would take the speed limit as the LIMIT, unlike in the US where it’s often treated as a “guideline”. Know that if you exceed it, you might get a pretty expensive souvenir in the mail a couple months later.

We’ve spent about three months driving through Europe over the years, and this was our first ticket. Maybe we’ll stick to the autobahn in the future!

Posted by
676 posts

Travel4fun: that photo radar on the N13 near Isigny-sur-mer has been there a long time. It is also where the speed limit goes down for a couple of kilometers (from maybe 110 to 90?). I think it's because of the exit ramps there, but I'm not sure. But they used to have a convenient road sign warning you of the speed trap ahead—what a capital idea! Not sure if the sign is still there, but I've driven that route so often I know to watch for the camera now. My understanding is that they'll ticket you for only a mile or so over the limit—unlike the U.S. where there is usually a buffer range. But I also appreciate the legal speed limits in France. They seem to be a good driving speed IMHO (except for that spot on the N13).

Posted by
3713 posts

Similar to travel4fun, we paid our 2 French speeding tickets online. The website was listed on the back of the citation. When I went to it, the English version automatically popped up. That was in 2012.

We must've been going faster than you were because our fines were higher. I remember the fee charged by the rental agency for providing our info to the authorities as being around the price you say your fines are. Things could certainly have changed in the past 8 years.

As someone else said, check your credit card transactions for charges from your rental agency, 1 for each ticket.

Posted by
4718 posts

I have taken driving trips through various areas in Europe in the last 10 years (Portugal, Provence, Slovenia/Croatia, England/Scotland, Sweden) and never had an issue. Is this something one has to worry about now?

There is absolutely nothing to worry about. Simply don't exceed the speed limit and you'll be fine.

Posted by
2057 posts

If you just received the fines and are paying in a timely manner, I would just pay the original amounts ignoring the increase for a delayed payment.

There are thousands of radar cameras all over France, some are marked, others are not. I generally drive at 5 km below the limit which often is not easy to determine. The speed limit used to be 50 km in a town and 90 km outside city limits. However, now you will see 30 km, 50 km, 70 km, 80 km, 90 km, 110 km, and 130 km. On any given road, limits can change without warning and if you are unfamiliar with the roadway, it is very easy to be ticketed.

Last summer the old 90 km limit was changed to 80 km (though some locations remained posted at 90 km). These standard limits, 50 km and 80 km, are not always posted in an obvious way. Everyone knows, or is supposed to know, that entering a town (passing the posted town name) the limit drops from 80 km to 50 km. When leaving town, the limit returns to 80 km.

The French are very serious about speed limits. Stay on your toes when driving in France.

Posted by
6728 posts

When it say 8 over, one is going closer to 12 over as there is a slight built in grace of 4 or 5 km. going 1 km over would really be more like 6.

they probably count the notice from when they contacted the owner of the car -- the rental company. as others have suggested you could try paying the original fine and attached a comment that you received the fine on January X. and see what happens.

Also search the Trip Advisor forum to see if anyone there has posted an answer as it is a bigger group and you might find advice from someone who has managed this.

Posted by
4171 posts

When I received my camera ticket from Spain a number of months after the trip, I paid it online immediately upon receipt. For it, I believe I had 30 days from the date it was mailed to make payment and get the discounted fine. Since it took about 2 weeks for it to arrive, I didn’t wait and did get the reduced fine. There may be something in their system indicating a violation number is from an overseas location, extending the payment time. If paying online, you should receive a payment receipt. I’d keep a copy of it, just in case you need proof of payment at a later date. Mine was for 6kph over the limit. Since it was widely known by those who drive in Europe that there are speed cameras all over Europe, I don’t consider them “traps.” As someone stated, stay at or below the limit and you won’t have a problem.

Posted by
2916 posts

I received a speeding ticket in France a few years ago, and right on the notice it listed the fine if paid w/in 46 days of the date that the notice was mailed, and if paid from 47-76 days, etc. So I had plenty of time to pay the lowest amount. And in fact, the attached sheet said I had 60 days to pay if I paid by credit card. So you may have sufficient time to pay the lowest amount
That sheet also listed the web site to go to to pay by credit card, and there was an English language option on the site. I have seen advice on TripAdvisor that if you're late because of late receipt of the notice, just pay the lesser amount by credit card with an explanation.

Posted by
11 posts

Paid online today. When I entered the relevant ticket numbers, the website showed the amount owed as the lower amount, 45 Euros for each ticket.

It was an expensive lesson, 90 Euros in total, but indisputable.

In thinking back on my experience driving around France, my conclusion is that I should have been more attentive to changing speed limits, which I believe change with greater frequency in France than here in the States.. I'm conscientious about staying at or under the speed limit here in the U.S. I will be more careful the next time.

Posted by
28121 posts

I'm glad you have a good resolution.

I'd agree - French speed limits do change a lot, and then there is the question of knowing the National Speed Limit for the type of road and how rural it is or isn't - these aren't usually posted. That's the same across Europe, but with different limits in each country.

Germany can be fun too.

Posted by
1163 posts

bob -- welcome to the Forum.
Your gracious acceptance of your tickets (rather than ranting about how unfair it all was) is a breath of fresh air!

Posted by
11 posts

Grrrrrrrrrr. Not so fast. Turns out the website I opened for payment of my 2 tickets was a scam. Fortunately my credit union contacted me when the charges came in for payment. The recipient was in New Mexico. So, the story continues . . .

Posted by
11 posts

I misunderstood the info from my CU. All is well. Payments made to the correct entity in the correct amount.

Posted by
208 posts

All I can say is that this really incentivizes me NOT to take the trip to France I had planned.

It's one thing to get ticketed for SUBSTANTIALLY exceeding the clearly posted limit. (A small amount over--say 5% or less--should result in a warning, not a ticket).

It's quite another thing to fine people who are driving a reasonable speed under the circumstances, but (allegedly) exceeding a limit that is not clearly posted. That is wholly arbitrary revenue enhancement, pure and simple.

If they are going to choose to treat me like a chump, then I will choose not to expend my hard earned-currency in their country.

Posted by
4171 posts

Sorry Matt, drive at the posted limit and there won’t be an issue. People in the U.S. are just used to a grace limit that isn’t given in Europe. It’s widely known speed cameras are everywhere in Europe, so if you speed, you know what could happen, but don’t call them speed traps or revenue producers. Trains and busses are alternatives, but don’t not go to France as there are plenty of nice sights to see.

Bob, as another already stated, thanks for admitting the infraction and paying it.

Posted by
208 posts

Jaimeelsabio--

Re--read my post.

No issue being fined for disobeying clearly posted speed limits.

Big issue being fined for "disobeying" speed limits that aren't posted. Which is clearly happening to some.

But thanks for trying.

Matt

Posted by
28121 posts

Matt, you just have to understand that driving isn't just driving and the same everywhere.

Different countries have different rules, and if you are going to drive there you need to know the rules.

Most European countries don't fill the roadside with speed limit signs because the rules are quite clear. In France: If it is a rural dual carriageway the speed limit unless posted differently is 110 kph. Rural single carriageways unless posted differently are 80 kph (down from 90 a couple of years ago but the civil unrest kept some of the old signs up. As soon as you enter a built up area which is signified by the town name sign it is 50 kph until you reach a pedestrian area or other slow zone where it will be posted 30 or 20. Once you reach the end of town sign it back up to the rural speed limit. If it is raining the 130 speed limit on Autoroutes drops to 110 and the 110 on rural dual carriageways drops to 90.

Once you know the rules it is simple. They are posted on the side of the road when you change countries too.

Isn't that easier than every little town having its own speed limits and changing speed limits on major roads a lot?

Posted by
3936 posts

Matt - just follow the limits and you'll be fine. We've had 3 driving trips in France - one from Paris up north and two in the south of France and never got any tickets - which I think was lucky since when we were trying to leave Paris we got turned around and ended up going both in a limited traffic area and drove up a bus lane - but it was a Sun morning so maybe that was our saving grace - never got any tickets.

I was very vigilant about telling hubby about speed changes - and having the in car GPS helped a lot as that (mostly) kept track of the speed limit as well. I don't know about all those zooming around us and tailgating/passing at first opportunity - I guess they know where the speed cameras are.

Posted by
1845 posts

How much over the speed limit were you allegedly going?

(For those who know) How much of an issue is this in general?

We drove from Paris to Loches and back last May and had no issues. I assumed speed limits were strictly enforced and drove accordingly.

I'm chiming in because our rental car had GPS that was tied to the speedometer. Anytime I went even slightly above the speed limit or when the speed limit changed to a slower speed, I'd get both and audible and visual warning. It really helped!

Posted by
11973 posts

Glad you only had to pay the fine and not a late penalty. I would have suggested paying the fine with a note saying you had just received notice.

I use a CoPilot app on my phone for GPS in Europe. It's free if you download maps for one country. I think 30 euros to download all of western Europe. One feature I like best is it gives three fairly sharp beeps when it senses you speeding. On French roads, it seems fairly common to have an open road speed (higher on toll roads), a city limit speed and a pedestrian area speed limit. The pedestrian area is usually marked by signs, stripes on the road and speed humps. The town limit usually, but not always, has a town limit sign and a speed limit sign. I'm grateful that CoPilot beeps at me on those occasions where the speed changes but I either missed seeing a sign or one was not there.

CoPilot also tells you about speed cameras but I don't rely on those to be completely current.

Posted by
11 posts

Thought this chapter was behind me, but I got a third speeding ticket in today's mail. What's disturbing is that the fine for going 58 in a 50 is 90 Euros, not the 45 each I paid on the other 2 tickets. Again, I'm French-illiterate (not proud, just the way it is), but the key wording on this ticket is "VITESSE MAXIMALE AUTORISEE INFERIEURE OU EGALE A 50 KM/H". Should I understand this to mean that the fine is greater at 50 KM/H or less?

I'm not an experienced international traveler, but I have driven 2 weeks in Great Britain (1997), 10 days in Ireland (2015), and 10 days in Italy (2002), and these tickets from France are the first tickets I've ever gotten for travel overseas. Is it just because of the proliferation of speeding cameras that are now in place?

Oh well, this third ticket occurred on our last day with the rental car. Hopefully it's the last.

Posted by
21307 posts

We get a lot more reports of Italian traffic tickets here than French tickets, but a lot of the Italian tickets are for driving in ZTLs--zones where only locals (or no one) can drive.

My French is basically non-existent, but I think your notice is saying the fine is higher when the speed limit you've exceeded is a low one. I know when I'm driving in the US, I often go a bit over the highway speed limit, but when I see a 45 mph or 35 mph sign, I do not exceed that speed, because I think there's more traffic in those areas, and you are more likely to encounter a careless pedestrian.

Posted by
16941 posts

Google Translate:
"MAXIMUM AUTHORIZED SPEED LESS THAN OR EQUAL TO 50 KM / H".

So because it was in an urban zone with a limit of 50 kph or less, the fine apparently doubles.

Posted by
1684 posts

I have digged up a ticket I got from the French authorities a few years ago and they were so friendly to send me one in my own (Dutch) language. Have no idea how many cathegories there are but this one was for speeding on a road with a maximum authorized speed limit of more than 50 km/h. In this case it was a 70km/h road and exceeding the speed no more as 20 km/h I had to pay €45. Likely for roads in the category with a maximum authorized speed limit of 50 km/h or less you have as Sam already translated well pay double. Painful but that’s the way it is, but I have to say I look to my speedometer nowadays with the abundance of cameras more as I like, not only in France, here in my homecountry too, speeding can happen quite easily.

Posted by
1005 posts

As mentioned elsewhere in this thread, the road sign with a red border announcing what city you are entering is ALSO a speed limit sign--it means 50 km/hr max. Most American drivers are not aware of this, and get caught by the speed cameras. Perhaps this is what happened to the OP. And as others have noted, you can get dinged even if you're 1 or 2 km over the limit.

Posted by
11 posts

It's an expensive lesson, as I've said earlier. 180 Euros for 3 speeding tickets won't break the bank, but I will definitely be more diligent about speed limits should I ever again drive in France. Unfortunately the experience will color my thinking about returning to France.

Is there an English language version of the "FORMULAIRE DE REQUETE EN EXONERATION" form. Has anyone on the forum appealed a French speeding ticket through this means?

Here in the U.S., I might appeal a citation and fine for speeding, or whatever, if I thought there were mitigating circumstances that should be heard. I don't have any specific mitigating circumstances to claim except, perhaps, that camera-generated citations don't allow any discretion and grace for first-time offenders. Not a strong case, for certain, but one I would make here in the U.S. if I had the opportunity.

I do appreciate this forum for its useful information on my issue. Thanks to all of you who have responded.

Posted by
4718 posts

Bob, three tickets would not suggest a first time offender, and those were the times you got caught! So your argument would not carry much weight. I've driven in France and often exceeded the limit but never got caught, simply by pure luck.

I've received two tickets in Spain and I drive there several times a year. I know full well what the limits are, I take the risk taking into account all factors. Of course, I could reduce the risk of receiving a ticket by keeping to the speed limits, it's easily done.

If you're going to drive in another country you need to know the rules. Claiming ignorance is a poor excuse.

Posted by
1684 posts

As you had a French rental car they can’t know the nationality of the driver, so obviously you receive a ticket in French as it is send to the rental company in the first place. As I was caught using my own car, having a foreign (in this case Dutch) numberplate they send the ticket in the language of the country the car is registered.

For more info and questions I consulted the website of the French national agency ANTAI, think it’s usefull for you too: https://www.antai.gouv.fr/faq?lang=en

Posted by
2057 posts

There is a margin allowed when fines are issued for speeding. It is a couple of km at lower speeds, up to over 5 km at the 130 km limit. This is to allow for calibration variations in speedometers. Thus, when someone receives a ticket for 85 km in an 80 km zone, he was actually clocked nearer to 90 km.

As most will not know how his car speedometer’s indicated speed may vary from his actual speed as determined by radar, it is important not to push the limits.

Posted by
676 posts

In my experience, almost all car speedometers show a lower than actual speed. I'm guessing they don't want to be accused or sued for allowing someone to speed. However, I believe my GPS speedometer readout is very accurate. I remember reading once that the speedometers in police cars are calibrated for accuracy. But I never drive one of those cars.

Posted by
11 posts

In response to "JC", above: On the face of it, I agree that 3 tickets in a short time suggests a speeding pattern. However, in my defense, I'd point out that my last speeding ticket before these 3 in France was 17 years ago. And I put 18 - 20K miles per year on my 2 vehicles (4-wheeled and 2-wheeled). I can't speak to other European countries in the era of camera-enforced speeding control, except perhaps my trip to Ireland just a few years back, where I drove for 12 days without any citations. Maybe I'm a speeding scofflaw, or maybe it was just dumb luck. Could have been a lot of things -- more cameras, frequently changing speed limits, language barrier, not understanding France's rules of the road as well as I understand ours, et al. I'm responsible, notwithstanding other factors. Whatever, I'll make a point of being hyper-cautious the next time I drive in Europe.

Posted by
4718 posts

I remember reading once that the speedometers in police cars are calibrated for accuracy. But I never drive one of those cars.

It's not the speedometers that are calibrated for accuracy but rather the speed detection equipment within the car that is. In the UK the Police mainly use onboard Vascar machines.

Posted by
11 posts

When I went to pay this 3rd ticket online, I was assessed not the base fine of 90 Euros, but the late payment fine of 135 Euros. For the first 2 tickets, I was able to pay the base fine of 45 Euros. All three tickets were postmarked in France on Nov. 27, 2019. This 3rd ticket just arrived on January 27, 2 months later.

If you pay online, there's no means to pay any amount other than what comes up when you enter the ticket number; otherwise, I would just authorize 90 Euros. There's no mechanism for noting things like late receipt of the notice, etc. I am tempted to blow it off, but I see the next fine increase is to 375 Euros. While it's unlikely I will get back to France at this stage of life, no point in gambling on that for 135 Euros.

For those of you who have followed along on this saga, thanks for your indulgence.

Posted by
2916 posts

Bob, I don't remember what appeared on the web site when I paid my French ticket online. However, I have recently seen some posts on Trip Advisor where some people said to pay the lower amount with an explanation. But maybe that can't be done online.

Posted by
749 posts

Bob,
Thank you very much for sharing this cautionary tale.
My personal take-away is for my own trip-planning: making sure to factor extra time into an itinerary to avoid a hectic driving schedule that could tempt one into speeding a bit.

Posted by
11 posts

Like many have noted, know at least the basic traffic laws and pay close attention to the speed limit. Adhere to them. Speed limits change often. Also, you might check to see if you have any options with your rental car company when it comes to how they handle such infractions. So far we haven't been surcharged by our rental car company, something I think would have happened by now if it was going to happen.

Seriously, I am fully responsible for these 3 tickets. I've paid them. But it's a system without discretion and/or opportunity for mitigation of damages. I would not be too miffed by these tickets if I had received them in a timely way. I'm baffled about how mail postmarked Nov. 27, 2019 in France takes 2 months to reach my mail box.

Enough whining. We had a lovely time in France.

Posted by
2916 posts

So far we haven't been surcharged by our rental car company,

That's surprising, because that usually comes first.

Posted by
113 posts

My BF drove during our trip last September and I know that during the 1st couple days, he definitely had challenges remembering when speeds changed & to what. I’ve been low-key waiting for a ticket to appear in our mailbox. Guess we’re not out of the woods on that yet.

To the person who plans to drive on their next trip, my best suggestion is to look up the driving regulations (especially speeds) because, as with so many things French, they often only post an exception to the rule and just assume you know what you’re supposed to do. The Join Us In France podcast #16 is all about the driving rules & is worth listening to a couple times before you go. We also tore out the driving info page from Rick’s France book (seeing the signage was a big help).