New Markets in Speed


Sarko might not yet have transformed the French economy, but in one area at least, he has created a market where there was none before: driver's license points.

As in many European countries, French drivers start with a total of 12 license points, which they lose for various driving offenses. Getting to zero means an automatic six-month driving ban. During Sarko's reign as Minister of the Interior, he introduced 1,000 more speed cameras across France in a frenzied law and order "crackdown." There are particularly harsh punishments even for mild speeding (under 20kph over the limit)– two points a pop.

But the crackdown has rather misfired: Drivers now see the penalties as universally unfair, and have started a market in license points. Those still with relatively clean records (close to 12 points) sell their points online for 300-1500 euros each to drivers in danger of a suspension. The seller then sends in her license number and name in place of the guilty party, and takes the rap. And the sheer number of cases makes it impossible to check who's who:

Officials acknowledge that the state is swamped with the administration of automatic fines. The Interior Ministry said that it carries out spot checks. "For example, suspicion will be raised if an 84-year-old grandmother is snapped at 200 kph (160mph) at five on a Sunday morning near a nightclub," he told le Parisien newspaper.

Jean-Baptise Iosca, a lawyer who specialises in motoring cases, said that the borrowing and buying of license points now touched every social class. "I have clients coming to see me after losing not only all their own points but also 12 from their grandmother and all their grandfather's," he said.

The solution? Another crackdown. Ex-PM de Villepin began a 20 million Euro investigation to stamp out fraudulent point-claiming, but it has yet to release any findings or suggest any action.

(Thanks to Sahil Mahtani for the tip.)

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  1. And I thought this was going to be about meth.

  2. Seconded.

  3. When otherwise law abiding people are going to such lengths to avoid a law it must mean the punishment is not great enough.Just ask the folks at MADD.

  4. Do the French really build cars capable of speeding?

  5. Don’t they have car insurance in France? I’d consider selling my extra points, but I would think it’d cost more than ?300-1500 to offset the increase in insurance payments.

  6. Liberals must love this. The new market helps the poor, who can now sell their points.

  7. Liberals must love hate this. The new market helps exploits the poor, who can now sell their points.

    Fixed that for you brian.

  8. When selling license points is criminalized, only criminals will sell license points.

    Seriously, isn’t this a prime example of the universal government tendency to make things illegal so it can selectively prosecute “violators”?

  9. Shelby,
    This is a little different. This is an example of the government tendency to make things illegal so it can randomly prosecute “violators”.

  10. Nick M.

    Haha, Touche.

  11. So long as ‘the public’ owns the roads, ‘the public’ can set the conditions for their use.

    As part of ‘the public’ I am all for holding people accountable for their misbehavior of the roads.

    Stiffer licensing requirements will likely not do much, so far as physical skill tests go, like the typical road test, though perhaps requireing a higher level of knowledge of the rules of the road could be argued for. I spent many years as a driving instructor, for whatever worth that may lend to my opinions.

    However, I have always thought it would be easier to assign points against the vehicle rather than the driver. No need to pull them over or take a picture that identifies the occupants. (arguably an invasion of privacy).

    Get 12 points and revoke the registration so the vehicle can no longer be used on the public roads. The owner can keep the car, and use it any way they wish to off the public roads.

    No jail time. No confiscation of the vehicle.
    Fines? yes, no, maybe.
    The point is, just revoke permission to use motor vehicles on the public roads. That will get peoples attention. Loss of use of your property seems more of a concern than loss of some license that you can probably get away without.

    There are still bicycles, horses and walking if you do not like busses.

    No more points on licenses or gaming the system that way. No more endangering cops lives or, more importantly, drivers lives, with the need to stop and identify the driver. Take a video and or picture of the violation. Contestable in court if you think your vehicle is being wrongly accused.

    Of course this can still be gamed, but so can any method of enforcing acceptable behavior.

  12. tomWright,

    That would add an interesting wrinkle to the used car market.

    Would the points reset when the car was sold? If not, how would you trade it in for something newer?

  13. Point systems are just a way of avoiding the tough calls.

    A person weaving through traffic at 10 mph over the limit is dangerous.

    A person barreling down a deserted black top at 110 is much less so.

    To effectively punish those two cases with penalties appropriate to the threat they impose on the public requires society to trust the judgement of the officer at the time of the infraction.

  14. Geez, I thought New York State was bad. At least here your points are reset after 18 months (but you only get 6 before your license is suspended, and the point totals sound about the same for similar offenses). From what I can tell, the French program never allows you to reset your points!

  15. The solution? Another crackdown. Ex-PM de Villepin began a 20 million Euro investigation to stamp out fraudulent point-claiming, but it has yet to release any findings or suggest any action.

    Never underestimate a governments ability to regulate or ban something by sheer force of will.

  16. Trey,
    “Would the points reset when the car was sold? If not, how would you trade it in for something newer?”

    No they wouldn’t; that’s the whole point. Fuck up one too many times and all the value in your car goes away: You can’t even sell it.

    I’m gonna steal my enemy’s car and race around in it, then return it to his driveway. I won’t damage it at all (I’ll even replace the window I broke to get in), but score enough points against it that he can never drive it again AND never get paid from his insurance company because there is no proof that it was stolen.

    I’m a bastard.

  17. The solution? Another crackdown.

    Nobody’s figured out how to keep dangerous drunks off the road much less speeders, short of taking their car away; nothing else works.

  18. Trey, wsdave,

    Yes, points would fall off just as they do on a license, so after some period of time you could use it on the public roads again.

    Folks that can afford multiple cars would get away with dangerous driving for longer, but then the rich get away with lots of stuff longer than the rest of us do.

    Of course, if an owner can prove a certain person was driving the car, the points could be passed on to that persons license. That would protect leasing and rental companies.

    Hey it’s just a thought. Probably lots of bad things about it that have not occurred to me, but when I came up with it, I was trying to figure out a way to enforce traffic laws without police stops that can be used as a pretext for harassment, and that often lead to violent situations.

    Oh and so far as Speed Demon’s observation that speed is not necessarily dangerous, you are correct. A slow driver can be just as deadly. I have been hit by cars 3 times while riding my bicycle, only one of them was going faster than about 15 mph when they hit me.

    Speed does not kill, stupid drivers do.

    This may be a faster way to get them off the road, since you would be able to write a citation against a car without stopping it.

    This also works against cops. Citizens could write tickets against cops driving stupid without confronting them directly when the act occurs. Why do you think they all drive like jerks? Who’s got the guts to make the complaint?

  19. Get 12 points and revoke the registration so the vehicle can no longer be used on the public roads. The owner can keep the car, and use it any way they wish to off the public roads.

    This is an interesting idea, but a bad one. Cars don’t commit crimes, people do. (where might I be going with this, you might wonder)

    If my ex-wife borrows my car for the weekend, I’m not losing my single form of transportation because she committed a moving violation. Sorry, ain’t gonna happen. Sure you can go into all sorts of ruminations about being careful about to whom you lend your vehicle, but it’s not going to fly.

    Speed does not kill, stupid drivers do.

    Slight correction: Speed doesn’t kill, differential speed kills.

    Or, it’s not the fall that kills you, it’s the sudden stop at the bottom.

  20. Rhywun:

    Sorry, there is a great way to keep dangerous drunks off the road.

    It’s called “prison” and they have them all over the place. Right now they’re mostly full of people whose only crime is being stupid, but once we let the dopers out, there’s even room for Teddy Kennedy.

    Or, if that dangerous drunk driver injures someone I care about, there is an alternate. That one’s called a “coffin” and it will be sealed at the funeral because nobody will want to see what’s inside.

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