Until earlier this week I thought I knew every trick in the book as far as not being done for speeding on French autoroutes is concerned. You work out where the peages are, make sure you are well within the speed limit a few miles before each one, and there’s almost no way you’ll get caught.
It’s a myth that they can do you by working out the time it’s taken you between peages via the ticket, and only if you are very unlucky indeed might you get pulled by a gendarme on a motorbike. The vast majority of the time they just radar you a mile or so before the peage, and then haul you over at the peage itself.
On Tuesday I got pulled at the last peage before Calais on the A26, the one where they do all the British tourists on the mad dash back to the ferry/tunnel. The local gendarmes normally set up their radar in the bottom of the valley De L’aa, just over a mile before the peage. So for the last three miles before the peage I bumbled along as normal at no more than 125kmh, the autoroute limit being 130kmh in the dry.
As I approached the peage I saw the gendarme standing there and thought to myself, smugly; “Not me mate, I know your game.” At which point he bounded over and told me to pull over once I’d paid.
“Trop vitesse” he said, to which I replied “Excuse me?”
He then told me that, according to his radar, I’d been clocked at 86kmh (53mph) approximately 650 metres before the peage, and that for 700 metres before the peage the limit is, in fact, 70kmh (43mph). And for this gross infringement of French state law would I please cough 45 Euros in cash, and pronto.
I very nearly spat the dummy right there and then, but what can you do? If you argue, you’ll be there for hours. If you refuse, you’ll be arrested. If you burst into tears, they’ll burst out laughing.
So I handed over the money and skulked away. And if I hadn’t been driving a bright red British registered Porsche, there is absolutely no way he would have pulled me in the first place.
Billocks to that for a game of soldiers.