…’been driving all night, hands wet on the wheel’… ah – 70’s rocksters ‘Golden Earring’ and their testosterone fuelled homage to lost love - a top ten smash from the days when speed cameras were but a glint in plod’s eye. As you’d expect, the guitar combo disappeared from public consciousness as swiftly as they arrived – speed cameras however, like diamonds and mothers in law, are forever. Also long gone are the days when, other than a couple of box brownie primitive examples on the Peripherique, France was a flash & cash free zone.
In their defence, static gatsos can make dodgy junctions, busy N roads and autoroutes safer – and since there’s usually a bloody great big sign before you get to them (thus extending the benefit for those of us happy to travel at subsonic speeds), it’s your own fault if you get caught. Even mobile speed cameras have always been helpfully housed in the tailgates of (really obvious and really slow) Gendarmerie estate cars - or perched on tripods and surrounded by a gaggle (other collective nouns available) of uniformed flics, sportingly ruining their attempt to hide the camera behind the nearest hedge.
But no more. Having decided that automatically issued speeding fines are the simplest way to fund our boys in blue, a small fleet of unmarked plodmobiles now roam our fair land - parking up on the verge and zapping you as you trundle by. That the road may be dry, sunlit and empty – and you’re only a wee bit over the man-in-front-with-red-flag 90kph limit – is immaterial. That’ll be €90 then, monsieur (reduced to €45 if you cough up pronto). And 3 points on your license (or actually off it, as France being France, you start off with 12 points (good) and work your way down to zero (shank’s pony territory). But if you’re snapped in a UK plated car (and not physically flagged down), not to worry – just keep a low profile on the way back to Calais.