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France: Parliament to Reduce Speeding Ticket Penalties
French parliament votes to soften punishment for minor speeding infractions.

French speeding tickets
The French parliament has taken a step toward significantly reducing the non-monetary penalties that accompany most speeding tickets. The National Assembly voted Thursday to diminish the amount of time that minor traffic violations affect a driver's record, and consequently his insurance rates. The changes came in the form of a compromise amendment to a wide-ranging homeland security bill known by the acronym LOPSSI II.

Under current law, a driver has twelve points that, if lost from traffic tickets, will regenerate after driving for three years without being convicted for an offense. On its own, a point regenerates after a full year. Under the proposed changes, an individual point recovers in six months and the full license in two years. A license is suspended once the twelve points are lost.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy blasted the "unjust" change for sending a "weak message" on road safety. As a result of the government's opposition, compromise language was adopted exempting "serious" offenses from the punishment. These include speeding at 19 MPH over the speed limit, driving under the influence of alcohol or, failing to stop at a stop sign, and wrong-way driving. A stronger version of the reform passed in the Senate to reduce the regeneration time to just one year.

The push for the change came from a recognition that the country's widespread use of automated ticketing machines has allowed the number of citations to skyrocket. Reducing the penalty for minor speeding violations is a recognition that minor speeding has less impact on the overall road safety effort, even though speed cameras focus almost exclusively on minor non-compliance issues. A poll last month found 87 percent of the French public supported a relaxation of the points system.

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