Driving abroad: break road laws in France and your car will be siezed
by Murdo Maguire last modified 08-07-2006 20:13

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British drivers found guilty of traffic offences in France face having their cars impounded, they were warned yesterday. The stringent move is part of a dramatic new onslaught by the French authorities, who complain that foreign drivers think they can get away with speeding and reckless driving.

Under the crackdown, approved this week, police will be given powers to hold cars unless spot fines of up to 260 are paid. The penalties will rise 'significantly' the longer a car is impounded, the French Transport Ministry has warned. In the worst cases, drivers will not be able to recover their cars until a French judge says they can.

Last year four million British motorists were caught offending on the other side the Channel.

UK drivers have already been warned that, from next year, fines levied in one EU country can be collected in another. A spokesman for the AA Motoring Trust said motorists need 'to understand the extent of the crackdown facing them' before that system goes into operation.

France is determined to cut down on anti-social driving habits. Last year its 1,010 speed cameras brought in 135million in fines. The AA said that, as well as the current speed cameras, the French plan to introduce cameras to catch 'red light runners' at traffic lights. They will also be launching an offensive against 'tailgaters' - those who drive too close to the vehicles in front of them.

British drivers who took their vehicles to Germany for the World Cup have already encountered a similarly rigid system of law enforcement, including speed cameras hidden in or behind crash barriers and tailgating cameras mounted on bridges and overhead sign gantries.

Andrew Howard, head of road safety for the AA, said: "This year, UK motorists in Europe will be given a master class in law enforcement that is often covert, contradicting much of what is accepted practice in this country. Until the turn of the millennium, the death rate on German roads was 50 per cent higher than in the UK, while the French rate was more than twice ours. Governments in both countries, spurred by high-profile accidents, ordered a crackdown and UK drivers who don't wise up to changing enforcement methods risk trouble. We hope UK holiday motorists take the opportunity this summer to understand how French law enforcement now works, without fear of piling up fines for when they get home."

Remi Heitz, head of the official French Road Safety Campaign, said: "We want to ensure equality between French road users and foreigners. At the moment, most foreigners caught by speed cameras escape punishment. We want to ensure no-one has a feeling of immunity."
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