Life gets tougher for expat motorists in France

Published:  5 Feb at 6 PM
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New French laws against mobile phone usage as well as increased motorway tolls are making motoring expats' life harder.

Following a Court of Appeal ruling this week, it’s now illegal to use your smartphone in your car at any time, even if your vehicle is stationary, pulled over at the side of the road with the engine switched off and its hazard lights on. Motorists with professionally-fitted hands-free set are exempt from the ruling, as are drivers who’re parked in a designated area, an official car park or their own driveway. Motorists caught flouting the ban will be fined €135 and lose three points on their licenses for a period of three years.

The court’s decision was related to an appeal from a driver who’d been stopped and fined last year for using his smartphone whilst parked on the side of a roundabout. His car was parked and its hazard lights were on, but the court ruled the vehicle was still ‘ in circulation’ and refused to cancel the fine. However, the court allowed one single exception to the law in that drivers whose cars have broken down and are parked at the side of the highway are allowed to use their smartphones to get roadside assistance.

Last weekend saw thousands of car drivers and bikers protesting the French government’s intention to lower the speed limit on all main roads in the country. The unpopular move is set to come in on 1 July, when the present 90km limit will be cut to 80km on all roads where the two carriageways are not fitted with a central barrier. The change is expected to involve some 400,000kms of roadway, and is extremely unpopular with the vast majority of drivers as well as drivers’ associations.

Unsurprisingly, the biggest protest happened in Paris, with other gatherings in major French cites including Orleans, Toulouse and Rennes. Thousands of bikers blockaded main roads by deliberately driving slowly, with co-ordinator for a Paris group Jean-Marc Belotti telling reporters the reduced speed limit will cause more accidents than it’s being introduced to prevent. He added it will also result in major difficulties with overtaking safely, as all cars will be travelling at the same speed.
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