French Number Plate Changes

Following a decision by the French government in 2009 to change the number plate system in France to one that seems much simpler, there has been fierce disgruntlement amongst French motorists.

The old system required car owners to change their number plates every time they moved addresses to a different French ‘department’ or government administrative division. However, the new arrangement sees the licence plate remain with the vehicle, even if the owner changes address.

As a consequence, the new number plates would no longer display the ‘department’ numbers, which infuriated motorists in France who have a strong attachment to their ‘departments’, which were first created following the 1789 French revolution.

The original version of the new plan was going to see the ‘department’ number become an optional add-on, which would have allowed drivers from certain notorious areas to avoid stigmatisation from the police and become less identifiable on the roads.

However, a poll amongst French motorists found that 71 per cent disapproved of the numbers becoming optional, with many fearing it would spell the end of the individual administrative ‘departments’.

A campaign called ‘never without my department’ was launched, leading to the French government backing down and agreeing to reinstate the numbers again, albeit in tiny characters.