French law and minor traffic incidents

What a dry and boring title for a discussion. Sorry. I do try to add as much humour as possible, but I'm running low on funny stories about this one.

My question is, does anyone know if "dangerous driving" or "driving without due care" (or whatever the UK law now calls it ) is illegal in France or not?

Also, if it is not, has the UK law changed in my absence?

I ask because I had a driver pull out on me from a roadside parking space, without indicating. He didn't hit me, but I had to swerve and I could easily have been hit by the traffic overtaking me (I'm a cyclist).

As I'd slowed to do this, I heard a loud "crunch/scraping" sound behind me and I stopped in the middle of the lane, turned and saw the driver slowly inching his way forward, scraping his front right wing on the car in front's left rear bumper/light. He was going so slowly that it was plain he must have known he was scraping the other car, he just didn't care. It was vandalism.

I tried to stop him but he just wound his window down and asked me what the problem was. I pointed towards the car he had just hit and said "oui bien sure, c'est la" but he just shrugged. I took out my phone camera, took a photo of his "immatriculation" (number plate) and a photo of the car he's hit. He drove off while I was doing this.

The gendarmerie said I was not able to make a complaint against the driver because I am not a victim (ie no bodily harm) & they were unable to take action so all that could be done is the driver of the damadged vehicle to claim on his/her insurance. They looked at the photos to verify it was real and took my details to give to the "victime'

I find this baffling. The man driving should surely have some points off his license and a fine of some sort. I had to spend an hour of my precious time reporting it so they could tell the "victime" that I'd found out who did it.

He risked my life with his careless driving. Why is this not illegal?

I doubt I will bother reporting this sort of thing in future. My time is too precious & I feel less inclined to waste it if people are just going to get away with vandalism anyway. Besides, I clearly have very little time left to live if I'm going to carry on being a cyclist in France, because they can all get away with dangerous driving, so why should I waste any of it helping other road users?

Is the law non-existant in this respect? Or are the police just too busy to follow up on minor breaks in the law? Is it the same in the UK and I simply hadn't noticed before?

PS: here's a bit of humour to add - I was so intent in posting this question that I've just burned me loaf of bread - b****cks!


It’s rather difficult to fill in the Constat when drivers are taken to hospital. The gendarmes took all of the contact details and rang the following day to say who was behind and in front. All of us live within 20km of the nearest main town and so met up couple of days later to fill in the forms. This was quite useful as I had time to take maps and pictures from Google Earth which helped on drawing the little plans on the form. The only time limit was that these had to be completed and signed within 5 days of the accident. It was all pretty easy and my insurance office have praised us for how well they were filled in!

Now waiting for their “expert” to write my car off officially so that I can get on and buy another car.

Don’t suppose anyone has a Renault Megane Break for sale … Around 2010 registration.

IO am a tad confused here as I thought that it was compulsory to complete the accident report form, at the scene of an accident with both parties signing it. While they may not agree who is to blame, the only accident we have had (touch wood) was a rear shunt which pushed me into the car in front and we all three completed the forms. I have a copy in English so I know what question is what.

Hi Chris, thanks, I shall do a bit of digging...I thought you'd be a help somehow!!!


"claim I am utterly gorgeous"? I'm Stunin in Me Blonde syrup. Ow do yer fink I gets so much of me stuff in print?

Seems to be the week for accidents. I was stationary at traffic lights, 2nd car in line of 3 when a 4th car ploughed into the back of us. Despite being in a 70 km/h zone and there being warning signs for the roadworks, 3 out of 4 cars written off. The driver who caused the accident admitted he had fallen asleep and yet the Gendarmerie is taking no action.

He was driving a company car so no inconvenience for him but the other two of us were private owners so we have all the hassle of searching for new cars.

Feeling very aggrieved and let down by the police. Dangerous driving or driving without due care and attention? Obviously not under French law.

OK. So what if I see somebody murdered by another person driving their car at a dead, but previously alive, persons car & then stealing said dead persons things! ?

On second thoughts best not to answer that;-)

PS No need to be so formal. We are not in court...............YET:-)

The problem with that Shirley (and I am not blaming you!) is that it is actually an offence to be facing the wrong way when you are parked - even if it is in a parking space, and especially on the road (you can get a ticket for being parked the wrong way round, it doesn't seem to put many people off...). So it is likely that an insurance company will jump on that and milk it for what it is worth.

Hi Jo

Sorry that you had such a bad experience - the bottom line is that in the UK the driver would have committed the offences of careless/dangerous driving, and failing to stop/report after an accident. However, here in France I suspect that the law is different, as the points system is on a sliding scale for most offences (including drink & drive) and the 'points to prove' for offences also appear to be different. You might get more information if you write to the HQ for the Gendarme or National Police in Poitiers.

Point of interest cate & a ridiculous extreme maybe, but :- What would happen if one witnessed a murder? The injured party couldn't complain to the police. Does the same principle apply or are you only talking cars? Robbery, mugging. Same thing? Interesting!

often the case is it is more hassle than worth it, so these sort of things happen, just look at what happened in London at the start of the year, four cyclists killed and all because both driver and cyclist did not take care on the road, bike verses car which one is going to come of worst.

i once had a minor crash years ago in an oldish car, checked with my insurance company they wanted £200 excess, so checked around the scrap yards got a newish headlight, indicator and grille for fifty quid. never will I ever use an insurance company again. they will just suck money from you at any opportunity.

when I started driving in late 80's I was paying £550 for a 2litre Cortina, now I drive a 4litre Explorer and only pay £200, plus my last UK car was a 2litre Mondeo and it cost £210. These figures are all fully comp. the only reason why I have insurance is it is the law and if I do have an accident they will cover the other driver. I would never bother claiming for my car just would go out and spend a grand on another run about.

it is illegal but as you cannot prove it and have suffered no damage. The police cannot do anything. The owner of the damaged car can through his insurance if you provide the photos.

Can't be arsed more like!

Hello Simon. So are you saying that it is definitely illegal, but that the police havn't got time to follow through?

Hallo Vic, am so glad you're joking because I literally depend on my bike for almost all my transport. I have scoliosis, so I can't drive long distances and I can't stand up or sit up for long so in order to stay fit and prevent it from getting worse I have to cycle as often as possible.

I like your style...I let my blokey drive our car. He gets the blame too <3

Unfortunetly it only takes a small minority to give drivers a bad name,especially around cyclists, it happens all over the world and there is very little that can be done, the police are not interested as this is minor damage and would take up too much of their time, going through an insurer would cost you about 200€ and as Vic has said it is better to drive an older car unless you have money to spare.

Jo. If your time is "too precious" give up the bike, get a car & save yourself some time. Safer too!

Only joking:-) Some car drivers are swines ain't they!! Things like this are the reason I drive an old car covered in supermarket trolley rashes. my missus drives the new-un. If that gets damaged she can't blame me:-)

resurrecting some old topics can be fun…

This new piece though is currently relevant and worth mentioning…