What the French Highway Code says about designation
Since 1 January 2017, Article L.121-6 of the French Highway Code stipulates that when a traffic offence has been committed with a vehicle whose registered owner is a legal entity, the legal representative of said legal entity must designate the natural person who was driving the vehicle at the time of the offence.
In other words, the legal representative of a legal entity (e.g. the company director) is required to designate the natural person (e.g. a company employee) who was driving a vehicle registered in the name of the legal entity (i.e. a company vehicle) at the time the offence was recorded by a traffic enforcement device or speed camera.
If the legal representative is the driver of the vehicle, they must designate themselves before appealing or paying the fine.
Once the designation has been made, a new traffic violation notice is issued in the name of the person responsible for the offence and no longer under the name of the company or its representative.
Payment of the fine (and a points penalty if applicable) then becomes the responsibility of the natural person designated.
If the driver who committed the offence is not designated, the representative of the legal entity receives an additional fixed fine (which may be increased further) in addition to the initial fine.
Who has to designate a natural person?
The requirement to designate someone applies to the legal representatives of legal entities such as:
- Any public limited company
- Private limited liability company
- Simplified joint stock company
- A single-member private limited liability company
- Local authority
- Public institution
Fleet managers also have to designate the driver who committed an offence. This applies whether they are the legal representative of a small fleet (1 to 10 vehicles), medium fleet (more than 10 vehicles), or large fleet (more than 1000 vehicles).
IMPORTANT INFORMATION: In certain cases, if you are self-employed you no longer have to designate someone.
Decree No. 530 of 21 April 2020 (19-86.467) of the French Court of Cassation specifies that the requirement to designate does not apply to the self-employed if their vehicle is registered in their name (i.e. as a natural person) and not that of their company (legal entity).
As such, those who are self-employed selling goods or services (including those providing professional services such as doctors, nurses, lawyers, architects, etc.) or who are farmers are no longer required to designate themselves in the event of an offence.
However, since French Law No. 2021-401 of 8 April 2021 came into effect, if a vehicle is registered in the name of a legal entity (company or business), the proprietor must designate the driver responsible for the offence (even if it is themselves) as the legal representative of the legal entity.
See the self-employed section for more information about this..
For which offences does the driver have to be designated?
The designation requirement concerns 12 offences recorded "by or using approved traffic enforcement devices" (Article L.130-9 of the French Highway Code) that relate to:
• Wearing a seatbelt
• Using a hand-held telephone
• Using lanes and roads reserved for certain categories of vehicles
• Stopping, parking, and driving on hard shoulders
• Complying with safety distances
• Crossing and straddling solid lines
• Signs requiring vehicles to stop
• Maximum permitted speeds
• Using the advanced stop box reserved for cycles and motorcycles at traffic lights
• Use of a helmet (mopeds and motorcycles)
• Lack of insurance.
How much is the fine for failure to designate?
If the legal representative does not designate the driver of the vehicle, the legal entity risks a fixed fine of €675, increased to €1,875 if payment is not made within the required time limit. If contested, the Police Court may impose a fine of up to €3,750.
If the fine is addressed to the legal representative, they are liable for up to €750.
These fines are in addition to the fine for the original offence, and if no designation is made the legal representative is solely liable for them out of their own funds (Articles L121-2 and L121-3 of the French Highway Code).
Special cases: self-designation, theft, etc.
If the legal representative of the legal entity is the person who was driving the vehicle at the time the offence was committed, they are required to designate themselves.
If they do not do so, their driving licence will not be subject to a points penalty and the legal entity which they are the legal representative of will receive a traffic violation notice for failure to designate. So if the legal representative has committed an offence, they must provide their name, date of birth and driving licence number in the same way as all other drivers.
If the vehicle in which the offence was committed was stolen at the time of the offence, or if vehicle registration plate fraud or any other event beyond your control ("force majeure") has occurred, the legal representative who received the notice of offence must send any information proving the theft, fraud, or force majeure to the public prosecutor's office within 45 days.
There are two ways to designate someone
- Online via this website if you are:
- The legal representative of a legal entity
- A fleet manager
- By registered letter with acknowledgement of receipt
You will be asked for the name and address of the natural person who was driving the vehicle at the time of the offence, as well as the reference number of their driving licence.
Is there a time limit for designating the driver who committed the offence?
You have 45 days from the date on your traffic violation notice to designate the driver responsible to the public prosecutor's office.
Otherwise, you will receive a fixed fine for failure to designate in addition to the original fine.
Requirement to designate: why have the regulations changed?
The requirement to designate is intended to make the legal representatives and drivers of vehicles belonging to legal entities more responsible.
Ever since automated traffic enforcement devices were introduced in the early 2000s, drivers who committed an offence in a vehicle owned by a legal entity often escaped point penalties. Sometimes the legal entity even paid the fine instead of the offender. This not only disempowers the offender, but also the organisation employing them. It puts the lives of drivers and other road users at risk by not encouraging compliance with the rules of the road.
Did you know? Traffic accidents are the leading cause of work-related deaths in France.
In 2020, 49,828 people were victims of a work-related road accident, of which 11,656 were involved in an accident while travelling for work (i.e. an occupational accident), according to data from the French Directorate General for Labour. The same year 356 of these victims died, making road accidents the main cause of workplace-related death.
This is why it was decided to create a penalty that requires the driver's identity to be disclosed. It aims to ensure that the driver is the intended recipient of the warning signal that are point penalties.