British drivers heading to the France capital are advised by the RAC that driving without a France 'clean air' sticker, called a Crit'Air vignette – which costs as little as £3.20 – makes them culpable for an on-the-spot fine of up to £117.
Drivers of non-French-registered vehicles though, have been offered a degree of leniency – given until March 31 to fully comply with the Crit’Air initiative. An English language section of the government website responsible for stickers launched on February 1.
- What are French 'clean air' stickers?
- Why have they been introduced?
- What areas and vehicles do they affect?
- How much will it cost me and where do I buy them?
- What happens if I don't buy one?
The French clean air stickers - called Crit'Air vignettes - are part of a six-category sticker system that applies to all motor vehicles in certain areas to identify what emissions they produce.
The six categories have six colours that denote how heavily polluting the vehicle is according to its Euro emissions standard, ranging from green (Crit’Air 1, electric and hydrogen-powered vehicles) for the cleanest, to black (Crit’Air 6 mostly older, diesel cars) for the dirtiest.
The vignette, or sticker system has been introduced to reduce the emissions output in larger cities, so on days where certain cities are at risk of reaching their Euro emissions limit, heavily polluting vehicles can be refused entrance based on the Crit’Air sticker they are displaying on the windscreen.
The stickers are currently in use in Paris, Lyon and Grenoble.
The Crit’Air initiatives applies to all cars, motorbikes and lorries and affects both French residents and foreign drivers - although if you have a particularly old car that does not conform to any emissions standards, you won't be eligible for a vignette and you won't be permitted to drive your vehicle during those times when restrictions are imposed.
Prices for stickers for foreign-registered vehicles have been set at €4.80 per vignette (as of 1 February 2017).
You can apply online for a sticker via the official Crit’Air website.
You will need to know your vehicle’s European Emissions Standard - find out your car's European Emissions Standard using our helpful table. If your car doesn't meet any emissions standard, you can't apply for a vignette and you will not be permitted to drive when restrictions are in force.
You will also need to upload to the website an image or scan of your vehicle's V5C registration form/log book. This must be uploaded in JPEG, PNG or PDF format and the file size must be under 400KB. If the image you take of your document is too large, you may need to use an image editor to reduce it to under 400KB. Converting an image to PDF format can also help to reduce the file size.
From 31 March 2017, all eligible foreign-registered vehicles must display an appropriate sticker, or face a fine.
Important: The RAC is aware of non-official, third party websites selling Crit’Air vignettes for more than seven times more than the rate set by the French government – motorists should ensure they only buy a sticker through the official Crit’Air website.
Please be aware: The ordering process can, in some cases, take up to six weeks to be delivered, make sure you factor this in before you travel/
Fines of between €68 and €135 (between £59 and £117) are in place but we expect French police to be lenient in enforcing the new system during its introductory phase from January to March 2017.
RAC European breakdown spokesman Simon Williams says: "British motorists travelling to Paris, Lyon and Grenoble need to make sure they don’t get caught out by the new Crit'Air scheme that has come into force.
"The scheme requires vehicles to have an emissions sticker clearly visible on the windscreen. The penalty for not displaying one is an on-the-spot fine of between €68 and €135 (about £58 to £117).
"Foreign vehicles will be allowed to drive in central Paris without the sticker until 31 March, but our advice is to apply for one as soon as it is possible – from 1 February at the official Crit’Air website (your search engine should let you translate the site to English).
"We are aware of third-party websites already selling stickers for substantially more than French drivers are being charged by the French government, which motorists need to be wary of.
"From the beginning of February, the onus will be on UK car owners to check the Euro emissions standard of their vehicle by checking this table, visit the official Crit'Air website and apply for a sticker. We'd recommend drivers do this well before they intend to travel so they don't run the risk of driving without one."
The RAC understands that around 1 in 10 French vehicles are too old to get a sticker – with certain older models not even assigned a category. These cars are not permitted to drive in Paris between 8am and 8pm, Monday to Friday.
Models registered before 1997, motorbikes and scooters from before June 2000, and trucks and buses from before 2001 are the main offenders in terms of emissions.
As many as 22 other French towns have signalled their interest in making a similar move over the next three years.
Here in the UK, the Government has been given an eight-month deadline to produce a new plan for tackling harmful air pollution.
If you are driving to France make sure read our driving in France advice page to brush up on other law changes adn to find out exactly what documents you need to take with you.