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Laura K. Lawless


Permis de conduire

By September 28, 2010

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Nous n'avons pas de voiture, et donc pas de permis de conduire français. Apparemment le processus pour l'obtenir est très dur. Les résidents de certains pays, et d'une douzaine des états américains, peuvent échanger directement leur permis de conduire contre l'équivalent français, mais seulement en moins d'un an après être arrivés en France. Pour le reste, il faut y consacrer au moins 2 ou 3 mois ; il faut d'abord réussir à l'examen écrit, et puis prendre des cours, qui coûtent des centaines d'euros, avant de passer l'épreuve pratique. C'est une lourde besogne (mot du jour) chère, mais le permis est valable pour le reste de sa vie - pourvu qu'on ne perde pas tous ses points.

Depuis 1992, le permis de conduire français est basé sur un système de points. Quand un conducteur reçoit son permis, il commence une période probatoire avec 6 points. S'il n'y a aucune infraction pendant 3 ans, il reçoit encore 6 points ; le maximum est donc 12 points.

Chaque fois que le conducteur commet une infraction, il perd un ou plusieurs points. S'il on ne commet plus d'infractions pendant 3 ans, quelques points seront reconstitués. Si par contre il arrive à 0, le permis n'est plus valable et le conducteur doit le rendre à son préfet. Il doit attendre 6 mois avant de pouvoir repasser les épreuves pour obtenir un nouveau permis probatoire.

Pour plus de détails sur ce système de permis à points, visitez le site du Ministère de l'Intérieur.

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English translation Please scroll down for the side-by-side translation.

Driver's license

We don't have a car, or a French driver's license. Apparently the process to obtain it is very difficult. Residents of certain countries, and of a dozen US states, can trade their driver's licenses for the French equivalent, but only within a year of arriving in France. Everyone else has to set aside 2 or 3 months to obtain it; you have to pass the written test first, and then take classes, which cost hundreds of euros, before taking the practical exam. It's a weighty, expensive task, but the license is valid for the rest of your life - as long as you don't lose all of your points.

The French driver's license has been based on a point system since 1992. When a driver receives his license, he starts a probationary period with 6 points. If there are no infractions for three years, he receives another 6 points; so the maximum is 12.

Each time the driver commits a driving offense, he loses one or more points. If he doesn't commit any more for three years, he'll get some points back. If on the other hand he gets down to 0, the license is invalidated and the driver has to return it to his prefect (the head of the French department he lives in). He has to wait 6 months before he can retake the tests in order to receive a new probationary license.

For more information about this driver's license point system, visit the Ministry of the Interior site.

Comments on this article (please post unrelated comments in the forum)

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Side-by-side translation

Permis de conduire

Nous n'avons pas de voiture, et donc pas de permis de conduire français. Apparemment le processus pour l'obtenir est très dur. Les résidents de certains pays, et d'une douzaine des états américains, peuvent échanger directement leur permis de conduire contre l'équivalent français, mais seulement en moins d'un an après être arrivés en France. Pour le reste, il faut y consacrer au moins 2 ou 3 mois ; il faut d'abord réussir à l'examen écrit, et puis prendre des cours, qui coûtent des centaines d'euros, avant de passer l'épreuve pratique. C'est une lourde besogne (mot du jour) chère, mais le permis est valable pour le reste de sa vie - pourvu qu'on ne perde pas tous ses points.

Depuis 1992, le permis de conduire français est basé sur un système de points. Quand un conducteur reçoit son permis, il commence une période probatoire avec 6 points. S'il n'y a aucune infraction pendant 3 ans, il reçoit encore 6 points ; le maximum est donc 12 points.

Chaque fois que le conducteur commet une infraction, il perd un ou plusieurs points. S'il on ne commet plus d'infractions pendant 3 ans, quelques points seront reconstitués. Si par contre il arrive à 0, le permis n'est plus valable et le conducteur doit le rendre à son préfet. Il doit attendre 6 mois avant de pouvoir repasser les épreuves pour obtenir un nouveau permis probatoire.

Pour plus de détails sur ce système de permis à points, visitez le site du Ministère de l'Intérieur.

Driver's license

We don't have a car, or a French driver's license. Apparently the process to obtain it is very difficult. Residents of certain countries, and of a dozen US states, can trade their driver's licenses for the French equivalent, but only within a year of arriving in France. Everyone else has to set aside 2 or 3 months to obtain it; you have to pass the written test first, and then take classes, which cost hundreds of euros, before taking the practical exam. It's a weighty, expensive task, but the license is valid for the rest of your life - as long as you don't lose all of your points.

The French driver's license has been based on a point system since 1992. When a driver receives his license, he starts a probationary period with 6 points. If there are no infractions for three years, he receives another 6 points; so the maximum is 12.

Each time the driver commits a driving offense, he loses one or more points. If he doesn't commit any more for three years, he'll get some points back. If on the other hand he gets down to 0, the license is invalidated and the driver has to return it to his prefect (the head of the French department he lives in). He has to wait 6 months before he can retake the tests in order to receive a new probationary license.

For more information about this driver's license point system, visit the Ministry of the Interior site.

I invite you to post comments related to this article below, but please post unrelated comments in the forum.

Comments

September 28, 2010 at 7:30 am
(1) elaine says:

Last year I swapped my UK licence for a French one, after being here two years. As far as I remember I wasn’t asked how long I’d been living in France. It took a couple of months for the new one to arrive, but otherwise it was straightforward.

That said, I recently met an American who did have to re-take the driving test. He got through eventually, but the experience was as painful as you describe.

September 28, 2010 at 7:53 am
(2) camille chevalier karfis says:

Yes, I do know about that !! Back to France after 18 in MA, I had to take my drivers license all over again. And as Laura said, it is a long, difficult and pricy process. For the written exam (le code) though, I strongly suggest you subscribe to Prépacode – a web site that prepares you to the test and uses the same kind of questions and presentation. Not only do you have to memorize a 150 page book, but the test has a very specific presentation which you should definitely get accustomed to before you take it. No need to enroll in pricy group classes though, they’ll do exactly the same thing as Prepacode, which you can do at home for a fraction of the price.
The driving test is tough as well ; you’ll drive for 30 minutes, on all sorts of roads, and be asked written test like questions as you are driving…
Good thing to know : you can pass an automatic shift drivers licence – you won’t be allowed to drive manuel shift, but at least, it exists (it’s relatively new)… I can’t imagine having to learn to drive shift on top of everything !!!!

September 28, 2010 at 8:53 am
(3) Louisa says:

Wow, that sounds tough! I better try to trade my license before my year is up. I have an Australian license, does anyone know if i can trade that?

September 28, 2010 at 11:33 am
(4) tenzing says:

The French system of awarding points and losing points is good. I have seen many drivers beibg careless or over self confident once they get their driving licence. I think we should also introduce this system in our country. In many countries driving licene can be obtained based on your personal relationship.

September 28, 2010 at 3:39 pm
(5) ÉléphantRose says:

You can always get an International Driver’s License before leaving home. They’re good for 12 months and you don’t need to take any tests.

September 28, 2010 at 4:03 pm
(6) gail bingenheimer says:

I think you can get an international drivers license to use in any country before you leave the states. I’m not sure how long it takes or how much it cost.

September 28, 2010 at 9:14 pm
(7) gareth says:

for an eu citizen i should have the right to drive in france – even if i live there- on my uk lisence

September 28, 2010 at 10:54 pm
(8) chattenoire says:

Residents of certain countries, and of a dozen US states, can trade their driver’s licenses for the French equivalent, but only within a year of arriving in France. – I am confused …does this mean that it is
only valid a year?

. . . . . . . . . .

No, it means that within the first year of arriving in France, you can trade in your native country license for a French license without having to take the driving test – it’s a simple, straightforward trade. If you wait more than a year, you cannot trade it in – you have to take the driving test in order to obtain a French license. Either way, once you have the French license, it’s valid forever (assuming you don’t lose all of your points).

Laura K. Lawless
Learn French at About

September 29, 2010 at 1:10 am
(9) Kirk says:

Laura, merci pour cet article instructif. il me semble que la plupart des américains voient le permis comme un droit. à mon avis il est vraiment un privilège et une responsabilité. si le permis américain était plus difficile à obtenir, les chauffeurs respecteraient plus la sécurité routière.

September 29, 2010 at 1:58 am
(10) Donald says:

Does anyone know how many driving fatalities there are per 1000 km driven in France in an average year?

(Obviously in a country like the U.S. where driving distances are generally longer, there will be more fatalities. Therefore, to do an apples to apples comparison, one needs to know the kms driven and not just the number of driving accidents.) I am asking because it would be interesting to know if these harder measures to get a driver’s license reduce road accidents in France. If so, maybe the U.S. could learn from the French experience.

September 29, 2010 at 11:52 am
(11) jfdyson says:

Hi Laura
A few comments on French driving licenses –
EU citizens can drive for as long as they like on their existing license as long as it remains valid.
We exchanged our UK licenses for French ones after being here about 2 years – it took about a week/10 days, and is valid for life – no tests required, just hand in your UK licence with your application. Note that if you live in France full time then your UK license will have a false address on it – not allowed!
An advantage is that it is not necessary in France to have a medical every year from age 70, unlike UK.
As far as fatalities are concerned, I believe that these are usually stated in fatalities per driver per 100000 miles or km – I don’t know the actual values but I believe France is about double the UK figures. The view of most Brits and many French is that the standard of French driving here in the South is pretty dire!

September 30, 2010 at 11:04 am
(12) teal says:

wow that is interesting, so would you be able to drive with a us licence for a while or would you have walk until you trade iot out???

October 4, 2010 at 9:56 am
(13) Linda Kelbrick says:

Question to JFdyson – how did you get around your UK licence having a false address, when you exchanged it for a French one? And are you able to drive in the Uk on the French licence? Thanks for your posting.

October 6, 2010 at 3:23 pm
(14) jfdyson says:

To Linda Kelbrick
Nobody seemed to care about my UK address – this was not mentioned in my application.
I was just regularising things.
Yes, I can drive anywhere in Europe on my french licence, for as long as I like, or ’til I drop off the twig !!

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