Late holiday classic car drivers face French fines
The recent European heatwave has seen France ramp up its anti-pollution restrictions, causing major confusion for motorists who don’t know if their classic cars are exempt or not. Roadtripping British late holidaymakers risk a fine if they drive in restricted areas without the correct vignette sticker, or face having to avoid them altogether if their vehicle doesn’t qualify.
The emergency low emission zones are known as ZPAs and are in addition to permanent low emission zones (ZCRs) found in the central areas of places like Paris, Lyon, Grenoble and Strasbourg. The Crit’Air system places vehicles into six categories based on their emissions, ranging from the cleanest electric or hydrogen-powered cars (effectively Crit’Air Class 0), to the dirtiest, which are given a Crit’Air Class 5 sticker. Drivers using the low emissions zones must display a vignette, or risk a fine of €68 (£61) for cars caught without one, rising to €180 (£161) if not paid within 45 days. Fines can also be levied for ignoring emergency pollution restrictions.
The snag is that petrol cars, vans and motorhomes firstregistered before 1997 and diesels prior to 2001 don’t qualify for a sticker, meaning they cannot be driven if restrictions have been applied. In Paris, cars over 30 years old are allowed in providing they can prove their ‘oldtimer’ status. There’s no specific category for ‘oldtimers’ when applying for a vignette online, so it looks like applying for dispensation via email or showing documents could be the only way out at present.
The 30-year exception does not apply across the whole country. In Grenoble and Lyon for example, there are no exceptions for vintage cars at present. To further enhance the confusion, the ZPA zones are not signposted and the daily status of each zone is not accessible to foreigners through the press or the radio. In such cases, drivers can resort to a Green-Zones app or similar for their smart phone showing the current state of a ZPA or ZCR zone and which Crit’Air vignette categories are allowed access.
If you do have a modern classic or another vehicle that can qualify for a vignette, the good news is that they cost just € 3.11 plus postage if ordered from aboard. Apparently there are third-party websites selling vignettes at inflated prices, so watch out for these. The official website can be found at www. certificat-air.gouv.fr/en