It amused me to no end that Kelly was the one warning me about all of the speed cameras and penalties for speeding in France. She knew of course, that I was about to go on a road trip across France. The year before, she had journeyed across France in her Adria Matrix and had boasted that it was a great way to travel in comfort and luxury. She argued that by drive a motorhome there was plenty of room for the essentials she would need for her trip, plus any extras she cared to bring.
I remember laughing and telling her that I could easily fit a travel kit for driving in France in the boot of my car. That way I would have a fluorescent jacket, warning triangle, spare tyre and first aid kit always on hand. In addition, I would have a GB sticker, a spare bulb and fuse set, headlight beam converters and NF approved breathalyser and a leaflet offing me helpful guidance on driving in Europe, all for under £30. This was sure to leave enough space for me to take a few extra items with me for the excursion. Plus, taking my car instead of a motorhome I had brought or rented would mean I could park more easily at the many landmarks and towns I wished to visit.
Somehow, I just couldn’t imagine having to park a motorhome at the Mont St. Michel. I had, after all, seen Kelly’s new motorhome. It’s massive and I swear you’d need a PhD in parking just to be able to manage it. She’d all but screamed with laughter when I had said that, insisting it was far easier than it looked. I was getting my own back now though. I knew there was only one reason she would be ringing up to tell me all about the speeding camera’s in France and the penalties for being caught. It meant she had been caught herself. She must have heard the amusement in my voice, despite my attempts to conceal it. She said, “You’re enjoying this, aren’t you?”
I admitted I was and she sighed, exasperated, saying that she was only warning me so that I wouldn’t get caught too. This was true, so I resolved to listen to her with more patience. I was only amused because this had happened before here in the UK and I was sure I was in for a run-down of exactly what type of speeding cameras were in operation in France and what penalties you would have to face if caught. I braced myself for the coming lecture. I might find it useful if I was lucky.
A few years before, I had known no more than anybody else about speed cameras in the UK, namely, there were fixed ones and handheld speed traps people could use to record how fast you were going. In my experience, the handheld ones were typically used by people in unmarked cars or vans aiming to catch the unwary. I know of course that the usual penalty for speeding was six points on your license and a fine adding up to around a week and a half’s wages, although it varied according to how far you exceeding the limit by. Then one day Kelly rang. She was hopping mad that she had been caught speeding by someone in an unmarked van near her house, Thereafter she made it her mission to find out all she could about speed cameras in Britain. She had then shared her newly acquired knowledge with me. As a result, I now know that there are fifteen types of speed cameras in operation across the UK.
The original speed camera, introduced in 1992, was the Gatso, set up at fixed points along a road. Another kind of camera called the Truvelo is also fixed to a certain point, but use infrared technology and do not have a flash like the Gatso cameras. She also told me that HADECS are used to enforce speed limits on smart motorways and that average speed cameras were first used in the UK in 1999. We also learnt that VECTOR average speed cameras are used at traffic lights and junctions.
According to Kelly, a number of SpeedSpike cameras can be linked up to monitor a particular area. I also discovered there were SpeedCurb cameras in use, as well as long-range ones operated by people on the ground which could catch you going to fast at a range of 1km. I had thought that after this long conversation about speed cameras that I had learned all I was ever going to about them. I was apparently wrong in that belief, as here Kelly was about to give me the load down on all the stuff I needed to know about speed cameras in use in France along with, I had no doubt, some things I didn’t need to know. She had told me already that the roads in France were generally good, but had never taken it upon herself to find out about the speed cameras in use there. I soon discovered that if you were caught driving more than 20 miles per hour over the limit you face an immediate fine of 135 euro and two points on your license, with both the fine and number of points given increasing depending on how much you are exceeding the limit by.
She told me that in France there are over two thousand stationary speed cameras on roads and motorways. She thought it was most important for me to know about the newly introduced Mesta Fusion speed camera.
“This camera can detect your speed,” she said, “but can also spot you using your phone at the wheel and if you’ve got your seat belt on. It’s very advanced so you better really watch out for it. It can even see if you’ve run a red light or if you’re overtaking illegally.”
She also advised me to take out breakdown cover, even if it was just cheap single trip European cover for the duration of my trip.
I told her solemnly that I would be very careful. However, she wasn’t quite finished with me yet. She went on to caution me that the speeding tolerances in France are half what they are in Britain, allowing for only 5% over the limit, so you’re more likely to be caught out when you’re driving in France.
When we did eventually hang up half an hour later my head was buzzing. One thing was for sure though. Thanks to that little chat I was much less likely to be caught unawares when on my road trip. I was now well prepared and free to relax and enjoy my holiday. I would have to remember to bring her back a bottle of wine to thank her.