French Drivers Defy Speed Cameras

French politicians may be hopeless statists, but at least the French people still have a bit of laissez-faire spirit. Not only do they evade taxes at nearly twice the U.S. rate, they’ve also figured out a clever, market-based strategy for dodging part of the penalty when caught on the roads by speed cameras.

The UK-based Times reports:

It is the latest ruse on the roads of France: drivers are avoiding disqualification by trading licence points on the internet. Complete strangers are taking the rap for speeding offences in return for up to €1,500 (£1,000), and police admit they are powerless to intervene. Even pensioners who have not driven for many years are getting in on the act. The online scam is also popular in Spain and other European countries, and authorities believe it may soon be introduced in Britain. It threatens to make a mockery of a French crackdown on road safety and embarrass President Sarkozy….

The technique is simple. In return for money, the seller provides his or her name and licence number in response to the speed camera ticket. The notice that is automatically sent to the owner of the offending vehicle includes a form for identifying another driver. Checks are extremely rare. The black market, which the authorities admit they are unable to prevent, is an unintended consequence of stronger enforcement of the highway code and especially of an exploding number of speeding tickets since automatic radar was installed on French roads on 2003.

…It has become routine in families of all classes for repeat offenders to ask friends and relatives with clean licences to lend their names. This explains an apparently steep rise in bad driving by older citizens. The rate of offences by drivers over 65 jumped 38 per cent from 2003-05, when the speed cameras began to bite. 

…One internet user in Spain listed his grandmother’s licence points for €250 each, plus the cost of any traffic fines. “I have persuaded the poor woman to renew her licence, with the sole objective of having more points,” he said.