Privately operated speed camera cars have operated in France since 2018, and accounted for €76 million in fines last year.
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France has an established reputation for being rather strict when it comes to speeding. In 2018, the country implemented privately operated speed camera cars driven not by law enforcement, but by outsourced individuals. Their use has spread since then, and in 2021 these anonymous cars caught more than half a million speeding motorists in France.
Catching that many speeders require many more motorists to be monitored. According to The Connexion, 6.65 million vehicles underwent speed checks, resulting in over 500,000 fines totaling €76 million for 2021. That’s a hefty number, but it’s just 10 percent of the total fines issued for high-speed driving offenses in the country last year.
The actual cars are still government property, but the drivers are employed by a private company and as such, they don’t pull people over. Cameras and infrared tech are used to monitor traffic while the driver travels a predetermined route. The system does all the work, “flashing” a car that is speeding and logging the info for the fine. There’s no indication when vehicles are flashed or cited, and no information is given to the camera car driver. In this case, the person behind the wheel is essentially just driving an unmarked, anonymous speed camera.
Private companies stepping into the realm of law enforcement has long been a controversial subject, especially when money is involved. In this instance, The Connexion explains that drivers and companies are not paid based on citations issued, but on miles traveled and there is a specific limit. Each driver has a route to follow, and they are required to maintain normal speeds during their shift. In theory, this discourages baiting other motorists to speed by slowing down. Camera car drivers can get a hefty fine of their own if caught deliberately speeding up or slowing down to futz with other motorists.
The camera cars are also limited to a maximum of €194,000 in fines per car in one year. However, 450 are presently in use throughout the country, which means the French government allows up to €87.3 million in annual speeding fines to be generated by private companies.