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Driving in France (Europe)

I rented a car from Hertz while in France. I had heard that an International Driver's license was recommended, but not necessary. In September, Hertz REQUIRED such a license. Be advised and check ahead of time and save some headaches for later, like when you miss a turn.
Traffic cameras in France EXIST. Two months after my return from France, I received an official letter, in french, from the Ministry of the Interior, notifying me that I had been cited for exceeding the posted speed limit by 5 kph. A "request" for the payment of 90 euro was attached. 5 kph
Good luck

Posted by
5114 posts

I had heard that an International Driver's license was recommended,
but not necessary.

It's actually a permit, not a license, and yes, it is required by law in many countries. And France is not the only country that uses traffic cameras to enforce speed limits, bus lanes, and restricted zones (like the ZTLs in Italy).

There is a small allowance of a few kph "grace" before a speeding ticket is issued. You exceeded that. If you continue to drive in Europe in the future, keep in mind that they take speeding much more seriously there than they apparently do in the US. Stay under the limit and you won't have a problem.

Posted by
8234 posts

Your credit card will first get billed for a service charge by Hertz for their time telling the authorities who had the car and your address. The demand letter comes in far after the ticket was issued--often almost a year later. The city will ask the funds be wife transferred directly into their checking account in €. And you will wonder how to pay.
You have to go online to find a bill payment service that can wire the funds and charge your credit card. They are actually pretty reasonable on service charges.

Posted by
5697 posts

Sounds like the OP already has received the ticket, which probably included detailed instructions for how to pay. We were able to pay by credit card. Look out for the date when the fine goes up!
France is more efficient about billing than, for instance, Italy which may well take a year to get the ticket to you.

Posted by
5410 posts

A "request" for the payment of 90 euro was attached. 5 kph

You were over the limit, what does it matter that it was 5 kph, where do you want the line to be drawn, 8 kph, 10 kph, 20 kph? There has to be a limit at some point, no-one gets to decide what they feel is an appropriate limit to reach before being fined.

Posted by
11477 posts

5 over in a 20 zone or 5 over in a 100 zone?

The 5 kph needs to be in context

Posted by
1443 posts

I did not get a ticket while driving in France in 2016 but I sure could have. I was careful about observing speed limits, but several times I caught myself 5-15 kph over the limit on the freeway. Got lucky that it wasn't in a zone.

Enforcing speed limits with cameras and automatic fines is a good idea. It's a cheap and effective means of enforcement. Having cops patrol the freeway as they do in the US is expensive and dangerous. Every year cops are shot at routine traffic stops, and having a police car chase down a speeder on the interstate only doubles the number of cars going an unsafe speed.

Posted by
396 posts

Some driving apps will fuss at you if you're over the limit. Annoying, but when you're driving in an unfamiliar place it's nice to have one less thing to actively think about. The Here app is an example.

Posted by
194 posts

Can we at least be honest and admit that automated traffic rule enforcement (no matter in which country it's done) isn't necessarily all about safety? In many cases it's simply about generating revenue.

Yeah, yeah, a rule's a rule, and all that. And a speed trap's a speed trap, whether it's an anonymous and efficient robot on a highway in France or a good ol' boy Smokey with a radar gun on a country road in Georgia. The only difference is, one stops you immediately and says "you're in a heap of trouble boy", while the other lets you go on committing additional infractions without potentially ever realizing it, only to send you the bill much later. : )

Posted by
440 posts

Over the limit is over the limit weather it is 100kph or 1kph. Thanks for putting France (Europe) in the title I have often wondered where it is now I no so thanks for that. (That is sarcasm by the way)

Posted by
8889 posts

Can we at least be honest and admit that automated traffic rule enforcement (no matter in which country it's done) isn't necessarily all about safety? In many cases it's simply about generating revenue.

I totally disagree with this comment. The object of speed cameras and the like is to deter people from committing the crime and endangering other road users. And ZTL's and such pedestrian areas are to keep cars out and try and keep the towns habitable.
The bigger deterrent is not the fine, but the endorsement you get on your licence. Enough speeding or other offences and they take away your licence; that will stop you speeding.
In that way tourists are punished less than locals, as they can't cancel a foreign licence. So people stop complaining they are targetting tourists - it is the opposite.
In Switzerland, if you are too far over the speed limit, they take away your licence at the roadside. Your car gets towed (as you can't drive it any longer) and you walk. In some cases there is a prison sentence.

Posted by
15673 posts

As Chris says, it's about safety. I saw on the tollways in France that nearly everyone obeyed the limits. The only places I saw speeding was on the lesser roads, where I assume the locals know where they can get away with it.

Posted by
5410 posts

Can we at least be honest and admit that automated traffic rule enforcement (no matter in which country it's done) isn't necessarily all about safety? In many cases it's simply about generating revenue.

Generating revenue for who? In the UK the responsibility for maintaining fixed cameras and operating mobile speed cameras lies with individual police forces yet the revenue generated goes directly to the government central pot for general redistribution. The police forces do not receive the money from fines so that can't be their motivation.

The increase in the use of average speed cameras also negates the issue with single fixed cameras where people would slow down on the approach and then simply speed up once they've passed the camera. This then leaves the police to concentrate their scarce resources on other issues.

As a police officer I've stopped many people over years for various infringements and many times been met with the response "can't you just give me a warning?". The problem with that is I don't know how many warnings they've had, for all I know they could have been stopped three or four times previously that day and on each occasion been given a warning only for them to carry on breaking the law. If you know that you're going to receive a fine and licence endorsements with no opportunity to wriggle your way out of it then it increases the likelihood of you obeying the law.

Posted by
194 posts

This isn't really all that controversial folks. Google "speed camera profits".

No one is contending that municipalities don't have the right to regulate traffic within their jurisdictions. And I don't think anyone is condoning exceeding speed limits. But it is surprising to see so many happily acquiesce to law enforcement approaches that rely so heavily on often privately contracted, profit-driven technology which coldly and completely removes actual humans (and common-sense judgement) from the loop.

In the words of The Simpsons’ anchorman Kent Brockman, "I for one welcome our new robot overlords!" : )

Posted by
5410 posts

But it is surprising to see so many happily acquiesce to law enforcement approaches that rely so heavily on often privately contracted, profit-driven technology which coldly and completely removes actual humans (and common-sense judgement) from the loop.

Are we supposed to collectively rise up and tear down these cameras? Privately contracted? Not in the UK, the responsibility for implementing and maintaining speed cameras lies with the police with the government receiving the income from the fines.

What common sense judgements are you thinking of? As far as I'm concerned there is little justification for exceeding a speed limit (I'm not denying speeding, I have done and I've received the fines) so why would there be a need for human involvement and judgement? On those occasions where I was caught speeding there was no justification, I simply wanted to drive faster than the speed limit. One was on a clear motorway in Spain and the other was on the M6 in England and I was hurrying to get back to the office. My personal opinion is that the speed limit on British motorways is too low, I prefer the German approach to Autobahn limits.

Posted by
194 posts

Didn't realize the development, installation, administration and service for all that technology is all done by the local law enforcement agencies, with no other third parties involved. Quite impressive! /snark

Look, the OP brought up a reasonable complaint about being nicked for a relatively ticky-tack offense with a hefty fine that, in his opinion, was out of proportion to the offense. Most of the community here gave him the tired old "don't do the crime if you can't do the time" spiel. We all get it, if you get caught breaking a rule, there will be penalties. Captain obvious nods in agreement.

What seemed to be a more interesting point was how so many here see absolutely no grey area. Would be interesting to see the same people's reaction to such an absolutist law-and-order philosophy for, say, the possession of marijuana or U.S. immigration policies. I imagine we would all be able to see lots of grey areas there! : )

I also found the sub-text interesting... that a naïve American tourist simply doesn't understand the nuances of the vastly superior methods of law enforcement employed by more enlightened nations, and must therefore be gently scolded by the pack. Change a few of the variables (a German tourist in Alabama caught by an old-school southern rural speed trap instead of sleek European "traffic control"), and if you're honest with yourself, I'm not sure the responses would necessarily have been so one-sided. Which was my original point.

Posted by
5114 posts

Hubestur, I still don't think your point, if there is one, has merit. You can rail against the system all you want. It isn't going to change anything. You want the opportunity to weasel out of a speeding ticket by snivelling about extenuating circumstances or whining that you only broke the limit by a little bit? There is the opportunity to do that, but it has to be done within (I think) 45 days. Otherwise, admit you were at fault and pay up. Claiming you broke a law"just a little bit" is like saying you're just a little bit pregnant.

If you want everything to be the same as back home in the good old US of A, then stay in the good old US of A. The fact is, other countries to things differently, have different laws, and actually enforce those laws.

Posted by
194 posts

Thanks for the definitive ruling there, CJean. Didn't realize this forum had referees who assigned merit to other people's opinions. Is that based on some sort of formal scoring system, or are we simply to rely an how CJean is feeling about a particular topic on any given day?

The OP's original point wasn't "railing" or attempting to change anything. He was simply WARNING others that things in Europe, in this case, specifically traffic cameras, are different from the US. I simply found it interesting, and pointed out, how many here seem to feel compelled to defend big-brother and jump straight to the predictable and boring "quit whining, you broke the rules!" line of response. Or they introduce straw-men about people not admitting fault or that they are somehow jingoistic in their intent. THAT's the point I was attempting to make. Ironically, your response actually makes my point better than I ever could have hoped for. Thanks!

Posted by
255 posts

A big thanks to Lia for pointing out "Some driving apps will fuss at you if you're over the limit. Annoying, but when you're driving in an unfamiliar place it's nice to have one less thing to actively think about. The Here app is an example. " I was not aware of such Apps. I did point out in my Trip Report from last summer that " Our Citroen rental car had a display on the dash that read “MAX SPEED: ” followed by a number that seemed to change with the posted speed limits." I'd be very interested in hearing from our European friends on this forum if this is now a standard feature on European cars. Having it in a rental car might save a lot of grief.

Posted by
5114 posts

bobbing4data- interesting that you brought that up. No idea if every car in Europe, or even France, would be GPS equipped. Somehow I doubt it. But our rental last fall was (we didn't pay extra for the feature - it came equipped with it), and it had the indicators that you mentioned. The car GPS we have at home has the same thing. You have to be really inattentive to NOT know you're speeding.

Posted by
5410 posts

I also found the sub-text interesting... that a naïve American tourist simply doesn't understand the nuances of the vastly superior methods of law enforcement employed by more enlightened nations, and must therefore be gently scolded by the pack

You're seeing something that doesn't exist. A bit of paranoia? A less than subtle expression of prejudice?

What "grey areas" are you referring to in relation to speeding? If you have a genuine defence for speeding then you can appeal your fine, interestingly enough you don't tend to get many appeal applications.

Posted by
194 posts

Yeah, you got me JC... observations about how strange it is that so many in this community seem compelled to vociferously defend traffic control technology (ironically, while not expressing the same level of concern for the actual human who was impacted by it) are obviously rooted in prejudice, because logic.

Well done!

Posted by
408 posts

I'd be very interested in hearing from our European friends on this forum if this is now a standard feature on European cars.

I have a recent VW Golf with GPS and it clearly indicates the speed for the road you're on and it's surprisingly accurate except for recent changes (for example, it won't know about the imminent reduction from 90 to 80 in France on 2-lane roads).

I don't believe it is capable of warning you when you exceed the speed limit, though. I'll have to check the menu on the GPS to see if it does that. That said, VW's GPS software has been criticized for not being very good. I suspect the GPS on Renaults, Peugeots, and Citroëns would be better, even if the cars themselves aren't.

Posted by
11477 posts

Its a shame the reporter did not get an explanation from the police on how they figured the 10 over speed

Have to wonder how the ticket got out the door without someone going 'Hmmm?"

Posted by
1221 posts

Over the limit is over the limit weather it is 100kph or 1kph.

No it's not. 1kph is a speedometer calibration error, and in many places the laws are written with a slight margin or error to allow for mechanical issues like that in a car. (In Florida, speeding fines start at 5mph over for that reason) I wouldn't be surprised if 5kph was the the legal point outside calibration error in France. 100 kph over limit is a danger wherever you are.

Posted by
5114 posts

I wouldn't be surprised if 5kph was the the legal point outside
calibration error in France. 100 kph over limit is a danger wherever
you are.

I agree. And around here, if you're clocked at 50+ kph over the limit, it's not just a fine. Its dangerous driving and you lose your license and the car is seized.

Posted by
276 posts

Is there a minimum speed limit in any European country? Can I get a ticket for going too slow?

Posted by
33300 posts

Motorways in most European countries have a minimum.

Posted by
1598 posts

Not sure about other countries, but you definitely will get a ticket for driving too slow in Germany and you will also get a ticket for driving in the left lane if you are not passing another car.

Posted by
10340 posts

My old European TomTom posts the speed limit as we drive along. It flashes red when we go five kilometers over.

Here's the deal: many of us in the US drive over the limit--or at least I do, mainly because the limits are set fairly low in most states. So many people see the speed limit as a suggested minimum, at least where I live. But, then we drive in a country or place (DC) that has cameras, where most people nowadays drive within the limit, which are set higher, and voila--magic tickets appear in our mail. So, unlike in the States, we do have to get used to paying attention to the limit when driving in Europe.