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Speeding Ticket in France

We were in France and Italy for the month of October and rented cars in both countries. The other day we received a bunch of paperwork (all in French of course) indicating that, as far as I can tell, we were caught speeding (20 kph over) somewhere between Lyon and Marseilles; we actually did Lyon to Arles to Aux-in-Provence and dropped our very-capable Ford Focus in Nice (BTW address for the Europcar office is not where you actually drop the car - that's a block away up a one way street that goes the other way).

It was a automatic ticket: there were no cops around, didn't get stopped and everyone else was going faster than we were (German cars mostly much faster); have heard that they target rentals as tourists won't contest the ticket.

Also discovered that EuropCar nicked us 30 euros for giving the French authorities our US address.

Do we have to pay this and how? What happens if we don't?

Merci!

Posted by
292 posts

How can an automatic machine that takes pictures target tourists? If you were actually going over the speed limit, why would you want to contest the ticket?
I live in Italy and I can tell you that Italians get tickets, a lot of them, for speeding. If you get one, you pay it...

Posted by
32239 posts

john,

As mentioned in the previous reply, photo radar cameras don't discriminate between tourists, residents of other countries in Europe or locals. Any car passing through the "catch zone" and exceeding the programmed limit will be photographed. I suppose it's faintly possible that the authorities could sift through the camera data after the fact and choose which drivers to send violation notices to, however I very much doubt this is the case.

To answer your questions....

  • If you were speeding, I'd suggest paying the tickets. The "how" should be shown on the violation notices you received.
  • I don't think anyone here knows for sure what will happen if you don't pay it so there's no point in speculating. If you were speeding and got caught, I assume you'll want to take responsibility for that.
Posted by
8293 posts

If a tourist from France got a ticket in your neck of the woods, would you expect him to pay it?

Posted by
5837 posts

Given that you were allowed to use the car, you in all likelihood "agreed" to EuropCar's T&Cs. Somewhere in the agreement that you accepted, you agreed to pay for the speeding ticket administrative fee.

The legitimate was to "beat the rap" would to not have been in possession of the vehicle in question at the time of the crime or if EuropCar misidentified the vehicle.

Posted by
4595 posts

Unless you want to stick to countries without cameras (Scandinavia, Czech Republic) or very limited use of same (UK, Ireland) you are just going to have to accept getting camera tickets as a cost of renting a car in Europe. Just like you have to accept losses to crime in Rio if you want to visit there.

I believe you can ignore the fine without legal consequences (we did without consequences, but then we never were mailed the fine notice) but the car rental admin fee is money already gone.

Posted by
20309 posts

I guess tourists probably get more than their share of speeding tickets simply because they are clueless about robocams. Locals are likely to have ideas about the locations, and of course, they are very aware of their existence and the consequences, and modify their driving behavior accordingly. Ditto for ZTL's in Italy.

Posted by
11507 posts

john.. how do you know all the Germans didn't get tickets in the mail too? Oh come on.. you were not targeted.. you sped, you got caught.. pay up or not.. morals and ethics are what you do when no ones looking .

Posted by
277 posts

I got one of those speeding tickets just outside of Bruges. The authorities actually alerted the rental car company and the fine was included in the rental car bill. After I arrived home, they sent me a copy of the ticket.

The lesson I learned from that is that the locals wanted me to drive more slowly than they did which is what I plan to do next summer in France. If it creates a traffic slow-down and is inconvenient for them, c'est la vie.

Posted by
544 posts

Hey Tom_MN and everyone,

I saw this:

Unless you want to stick to countries without cameras (Scandinavia, Czech Republic) or very limited use of same (UK, Ireland)

Just a heads up that there are many speed cameras in Norway. They have traditional stationary photo boxes on the sides of the road or above the lanes, but they also have "automatic section control." This means that the cameras are linked, so if you arrive too quickly to the next photo box you will get a speeding ticket even if your speed was under the limit as you passed each of the boxes individually.

There are lots of resources online to learn about how speed limits and speed control works in each country and I think even if you're planning to keep it under the limit, it pays to learn about them.

I was driving in France this October and did notice a white van speed past me just to abruptly slow down and slide back in behind me in the right lane. Sure enough, there was a camera just around the bend. My uncle does this same things in Norway, drives like a bat out of hell, and then slams on the brakes right before he reaches the photo box (I think he's still had his share of tickets).

Posted by
4595 posts

Nordheim: because the seemingly complete online posting of all enforcement cameras at photoenforced.com by volunteers had nothing for Norway I assumed it was true. Learned about the mandatory 18 day jail terms for speeding there--yikes.

Posted by
33113 posts

very limited use of same (UK, Ireland)

Tom_MN, do you have first hand knowledge of the very limited use that you claim for cameras in the UK?

There are cameras EVERYWHERE in this country. Some are switched on, some are switched off. Some have a visible flash, some have an invisible one.

There are also speed averaging ones in most road works areas and millions of tickets are sent out every year from all these.

What did you mean when you said "very limited use ...(UK)"?

Posted by
4595 posts

Limited use in UK:

  1. Few outside London are mapped on website mentioned above

  2. I have yet to read on an online forum of a tourist getting one in the mail afterwards (it's usually France or Italy)

  3. In the UK they put up advance warning signs

Posted by
1878 posts

It is possible to drive in countries with speed cameras and not get a ticket. I did it in France on our 2010 trip and in England on our 2013 trip. I was vaguely aware of the fact that they have speed cameras in France at the time, but in England they were all over the place. It really messed up my enjoyment of the freedom of having a car. The thing that does not seem reasonable is that people get tickets for one or two kph over the speed limit. Fortunately I drive very conservatively anyway so we did not incur any fines. As much as I hate to say it, it does make me think twice about going to countries where a car is essential, if the countryside is crawling with speed cameras. Car rentals in Ireland are already close to $100 per day with insurance, add to that a couple of tickets and I might rather go somewhere that I can stick to pubic transit.

Posted by
33113 posts

It is possible to drive in countries with speed cameras and not get a ticket

I want agree with this statement from VS.

I have been driving for nearly 50 years, I've never had a ticket either in the US or Canada, or in England or Europe. I drive quite a lot, and I don't hang about. Luck? No, I'm careful and aware of my surroundings.

Lots of people come here and all of them don't get tickets. Same in Italy and France.

Posted by
10287 posts

I agree too that tickets aren't the norm. My husband learned to drive in France in the 1960's, has driven there every year since, and has never had a ticket. Neither have I. We drive leased cars with red plates and rental cars every year when we go back.

John, Here's my lighthearted take on the situation.
I've come to the conclusion that there must be five stages of getting a ticket because it's such a common human reaction and we see this on this Forum so often:

Denial: That wasn't me; they made a mistake. Must have been the Germans.
Anger: Those btars are targeting foreigners for easy money.
Bargaining: Do you think they'd really come after me in the States or block my re-entering Europe?
Depression: What a waste of money. Why wasn't I paying more attention.
Acceptance: Oh well, I'll just pay and get it over.
Edit: Thank you to Ken for citing the original source.

Edit: By the way, one of our French friends is prone to tickets, but for her it's much more serious because with the point system she could end up losing her license.

Posted by
4595 posts

Some anecdotal comments:

Americans are frequent car renters in Ireland, UK, France, Germany, and Italy.

I have never heard of or seen posted an experience of a car renter getting a ticket mailed back from Ireland or the UK to the US.

It is rare for a car renter to get a ticket mailed back to them from Germany.

It is a common occurrence for renters to have a ticket mailed back from France or Italy, to the point where it seems to be 25-40% of all renters (based on my informal polling of personal contacts of people who have driven there) and supported by the plethora of online postings from former car renters from these 2 countries.

I think it is obvious that there is something up with France and Italy, a greater saturation or cameras, much lower thresholds, or that some countries don't pursue car renters with the same zeal. Or perhaps Americans are just more likely to be scofflaws in some European countries and not others?

Posted by
3614 posts

One thing that may be going on is a different attitude toward posted speed limits in the U.S. Here, it is rare for drivers going less than 5 or even 10 mph over the limit to be ticketed. So rare, in fact, that places where strict enforcement prevails are commonly known as speed traps. It is also true here, that if you are keeping up with the flow of traffic, you usually won't be cited. Cameras, however, are impersonal. They leave only the margin set, which may be very small, e.g., 2 kph, ; and they don't consider the flow.
John, you should consider yourself lucky to have been charged only 30 euros by EuropCar. We got nicked 42.70 euros by Avis in Italy for reporting us for a ztl infraction, occurring April 22. The ticket has yet to appear.

Posted by
32239 posts

Bets,

That's an interesting use of the principles of Dr. Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, but it certainly seems to fit the discussion at hand.

We also have to contend with the points system here, but losing one's driver's license isn't the only penalty. Our provincial insurance agency (ICBC) also keeps track of points, and those have points have to pay additional costs when they renew their (compulsory) insurance. If they don't pay, they don't get insurance so in reality offenders get fined twice. For example, Excessive Speeding (more than 40 kp/h over the limit) is punishable by a fine of $368-483 and 3 points and the offenders car is impounded for 7 days! Breaking the rules here can become very expensive, very quickly!

Posted by
77 posts

Bets, that's awesome!!

We are planning on renting a car for a day or two in france. I consider myself forewarned! Now I Will have to lay down the law to lead foot husband.

Posted by
32239 posts

john,

I don't know if this applies to France, but some posts here in the past have indicated that municipal authorities (at least in Italy) have hired North American collection agencies to track down scofflaws on this side of the pond.

Posted by
4522 posts

the tricky part is it's a known fact that some cars (e.g., BMW) have purposely inaccurate speedos. So a camera that's set for only 1 or 2 over the limit can nail you quite easily. If that's how the speedo shows, I can never remember if it's set low or high.

Posted by
2261 posts

That's interesting, phred. In Googling that, it looks like they typically read a bit high, like 3-5 mph. We drove a 3-Series BMW (they were out of the VW Polo we asked for) around Provence and I was certain I was over the limit a couple times when I realized I was in a camera zone. No mail yet.

Posted by
3766 posts

Most speedometers are set to say that you are traveling slightly faster than you are traveling.

Posted by
1656 posts

The current European regulations for speedometers are they must not display a lower speed than the speed driven. They may show anything up to 10% plus 4 km/h above what is being driven. Therefore the dial may read 114 km/h when you are travelling at 100 km/h.

As an example the radar smiley face signs register my car at 29 mph when the needle is around 31. This 2 mph / 3 km/h seems to be consistent on this model.