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What are these French Clean Air Laws About?

French Clean Air - Barnsley Commercial Sales Ltd
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If you spend any amount of time driving on the continent, whether it’s for business or pleasure, then the chances are that you’ll need to worry about France’s clean air laws. These require action on the part of visiting motorists.

In response to mounting concern about air pollution the powers-that-be in France have decided to introduce a new ‘clean air’ sticker system, known as ‘Crit’Air’. The system divides all vehicles into six colour-coded categories, allowing French motorists to see at a glance how much pollution they’re spewing out of their tailpipes.

What do the stickers mean?
Put simply, the lower the number on your sticker, the better. ‘5’ is the highest; vehicles bearing this number are effectively banned from major cities, including Paris, Grenoble, Strasbourg and Lyon. ‘0’ is the lowest, and is largely reserved for electric cars.

Where do I get a sticker?
With anything like this, you’ll need to be aware of online scammers. Take a look through the Google search and you’ll find plenty of websites hurrying to set up shop and con British motorists out of their bank details. The official site is here.

Note that you’ll need to leave plenty of time for the sticker to actually arrive. Some have reported theirs arriving within a week; others have had to wait for the best part of a month. If you’ve planning a trip to the continent in the near future, then you’ll need to get moving. If you aren’t, then we’d suggest getting prepared, just in case you decide to make an impromptu delivery. Given that they cost just a few quid, it’s very much a no-brainer.

What do the zones mean?
Making things even more confusing is the fact that there are two types of emission zones in France: ZCRs (that’s zone à circulation restreinte) and that’s ZPAs (zones de protection de l’air). In the former, the rules are in place all of the time, while in the latter, the rules come into place only on specific days when high levels of pollution are anticipated. Be sure to check your route.

What about Paris?
In Paris, the rules are particularly strict. Every diesel vehicle made prior to 2006 is banned from the city between the hours of 8am and 8pm. Those caught violating the ban risk a fine of between €68 and €135, depending on the sort of vehicle being driven.

What does this mean for British motorists?
Now, you might be thinking ‘I’m not planning on driving to Paris, so this doesn’t affect me’. Well, you’d be only slightly right. First, you can be sure that the British authorities will look to take similar action over here at some point, forcing us all to select lower-emission vehicles (or take the tube instead). The second obvious implication is that older vans will fall in price as hauliers are forced to sell up – which means there may be plenty of bargains to be had for those of us who’re only travelling short distances!

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