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2012/08/07

"You mean to say that you chased me through the village and are treating me like a terrorist because I did not stop at a white line?!"

Une Anglaise dans une Golf se fait arrêter par les gendarmes dans un… village du Midi, est incrédule de se faire traiter "comme une terroriste" (lire aussi — si vous comprenez l'anglais — les témoignages dans les commentaires)
As I drive out of the square, a blue gendarmerie van appears, as if out of nowhere, in my rear view mirror, its blue light flashing and siren wailing
writes Karen Wheeler in the Telegraph.
"Must be pretty serious," I think, slowing down – there is nowhere to pull over – and wondering why it doesn’t overtake, despite the lack of oncoming traffic.

Eager to get out of its way, I turn right for the petrol station and am irritated when it does likewise, driving close enough to pluck the GB sticker from my bumper.

I turn into the petrol station, hoping to lose the screaming blue vehicle. But no, it follows me there too. The police van, I realise to my horror, is chasing me.

… Terrified, I get out to face the French cops, while Biff, my dog, cowers behind the driver’s seat.
"Madame," says one of two robustly built female cops, barely out of their teens. "You have just committed a serious offence."

"Really? What?" I say, incredulous.

"You did not stop at a white line."

"Yes, it’s true, because I could see that there was no traffic coming in any direction," I reply in French, realising that she is referring to a minor junction off the village square.

… from the expressions on the gendarmes’ faces, you’d think I’d been caught sneaking into the Louvre with a large incendiary device.

Suddenly, I’m struck by the absurdity of the situation and I start to laugh. "You mean to say that you chased me through the village and are treating me like a terrorist because I did not stop at a white line?" I find myself saying.

Now it’s the gendarmes’ turn to look incredulous. The golden rule when dealing with les flics, as most expats know, is to smile apologetically and be as obsequious as possible.

When I tell friends about my latest run-in with the gendarmes, they shake their heads knowingly. It seems that most of them, French and anglais alike, have at some point, fallen foul of the unbroken white line.

"Ah yes, white lines," says my French mayor friend, knowingly. "The gendarmes take them very seriously." Using a handheld phone while driving, on the other hand, is not taken at all seriously, it seems, since the penalty starts at a mere €35.

… if you’ve ever wondered why French drivers seem reluctant to exit supermarket car parks, yet are happy to tailgate at 120 km per hour on dual carriageways, while cheerfully chatting on a handheld phone, you can probably now figure out why.
Read also the testimony in the comments section, including this one:
I warn against the STOP cash cow in France on http://streetwise-france.com/travel-france-driving.htm#driving:
"French junctions are littered with over-zealous STOP signs where other countries use YIELD signs. The difference is, as you would know, that you have to mark the stop during a couple of seconds when there is a STOP sign. The trap is that police have found out that spying on STOP signs is an easy way of making money, since most of the junctions don't require stopping completely for safe passage. Hence, many motorists just drive slowly past the STOP signs without stopping completely. To prevent annoying fines, one needs to STOP completely and sit and look around for a couple of seconds, whether it seems useful or not, whenever there is a STOP sign. The strange thing is that on dangerous junctions with fast traffic, one mostly finds YIELD signs only, whereas it is indeed required for safety to stop completely to avoid being torpedoed by a French driver going 120 kph (75 mph) on a national road where the limit is 90 kph (56 mph)."
As with so many other things in France, it is ridiculous, but it's unlikely to change.

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