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What are these yellow stickers popping up in car windscreens?


Image credit: RAC

The Crit'Air Air Quality Certificate, commonly referred to as the Crit'Air sticker or vignette, is a clean air sticker that is required in France to identify a vehicle's emissions levels. This system is part of France's efforts to improve air quality, particularly in its major cities and regions, by restricting access to certain areas for vehicles that produce higher levels of pollution. Vehicles are classified into categories based on their emission standards, ranging from green for electric or hydrogen-powered vehicles to grey or black for older, more polluting vehicles.

The certificate must be displayed on the windscreen of vehicles (or a visible spot for motorcycles) and is essential for driving in 'Low Emission Zones' (Zones à Faibles Émissions, ZFE) or during certain pollution peaks when temporary restrictions are enforced. These zones and restrictions can vary by city and region, including Paris, Lyon, Grenoble, and others, with fines imposed for non-compliance. The goal of the Crit'Air system is to reduce the environmental impact of road traffic and promote cleaner transportation alternatives.


How much are the fines?


In April 2023, the fines for not displaying a Crit'Air sticker, or for driving a vehicle in a Low Emission Zone (ZFE) in France that does not meet the required emission standards, can vary depending on the type of vehicle and the severity of the infraction. The general fines are as follows:


- For cars and vans: The fine for non-compliance can range from €68 to €135. If the fine is paid promptly, it may be reduced to €45. However, if it is not paid within the stipulated time, it can increase up to €375.

  

- For heavy goods vehicles and buses: The fine is generally higher, starting from €135 and can increase to €750 if not paid promptly.


It's important to note that these amounts can be subject to change and may vary based on specific local regulations within different French cities or regions implementing the Crit'Air system. Drivers are advised to check the most current information and ensure they comply with the regulations to avoid penalties.


Do British licensed vehicles visiting France need a sticker?


Yes, British-licensed vehicles travelling to France do need a Crit'Air sticker if they intend to drive in any of the French cities or communes that have Low Emission Zones (Zones à Faibles Émissions, ZFE) or during certain pollution peaks when restrictions apply. This includes major urban areas such as Paris, Lyon, and Grenoble, among others. The requirement applies to all foreign vehicles, including those from the UK, without exception.


To obtain a Crit'Air sticker, vehicle owners must apply online, providing details about their vehicle including its European Emission Standards category, registration date, and fuel type. The sticker is then mailed to the vehicle owner and must be displayed on the windscreen.


Failure to display a valid Crit'Air sticker in designated areas can result in fines, as previously mentioned. Therefore, British drivers planning to visit France are advised to apply for their Crit'Air sticker well in advance of their trip to ensure compliance and avoid potential fines.


Last year, RAC Europe spokesperson Rod Dennis said: “Many UK drivers will be familiar with clean air zones such as the London Ultra Low Emission Zone, but they should also be ready to encounter them abroad this summer. It’s vital anyone travelling to Europe does their homework to see whether an emissions-based windscreen sticker is needed – and give themselves enough time to order one before their trip.


“In France, six years after Crit’Air emissions stickers were first introduced in a bid to improve air quality, there are now 12 locations where British drivers’ movements can be restricted based on how much their cars emit. As time goes on, the regulations also get stricter and within a few years all but zero-emission vehicles will be banned from some city centres.”

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