Whilst the British Government’s recently published Strategic Framework for Road Safety has presented a long-term vision of ensuring Britain remains a world leader in road safety, the French Government has announced its intention to increase and implement specific road safety measures aimed at speeding motorists, drink drivers and motorcyclists by September.
The measures follow four months of increasing numbers of deaths on French roads with 331 dead in January (up from 273 in 2010), 273 in February (254), 308 in March (300) and 355 in April (296). Although data collected over such a short period may not indicate a trend, it is clear the French Government finds them unacceptable and is determined to reduce the number of incidents resulting in death on French roads.
Reducing road deaths was a major plank in President Sarkozy’s election campaign in 2007 and the interior ministry said that road safety improvements had saved 23,000 lives since 2002 when more than 9,000 were dying each year.
In all, 18 measures are being introduced which include:
• A ban on radar detectors. Anyone found with such equipment in a vehicle will be liable to a €1,500 fine and the loss of six points. At present, all drivers start with 12 points on their licence and have from 1 to 6 points deducted for offences, depending on the nature of the offence. All lost points are reinstated after three years (if no further offences are committed). Four points may also be reinstated by taking a two-day driving awareness course (stage de sensibilisation). If 12 points are lost, a licence to drive will be removed for at least six months, after which time a further driving examination must be taken before the licence can be regained.
• The end of signs giving advance warning of speed controls (and published maps of control sites).
• Speeding at more than 50km/h above the limit: to be punishable with a jail sentence.
• More points to be lost for drink driving. Drivers face losing eight points from their licences rather than the present six if their blood/alcohol limit is higher than 0.8g per litre. An alcohol tester is to be developed to stop drivers over the limit driving a vehicle with more than nine seats.
• A heavier penalty for mobile phone use and for using DVDs or computer screens while driving. Driving while using a mobile phone will cost a €135 fine and three points off the licence.
• Driving on the hard shoulder will result in an increased penalty of €135. Noise bands are to be fitted to hard shoulders in an effort to wake drivers who have fallen asleep at the wheel and are in danger of driving onto them.
• Motorcycle and scooter riders to wear reflective or high-visibility jackets. Non-use will mean the loss of two points from the licence.
• Two-wheeler number plates are to be made larger so they can be traced more easily for speed offences. New plates will be 275×200 mm and will be fitted to new or newly-registered vehicles. Any number plate that does not conform with regulations (car or motorcycle) will face a €135 fine.
• Riders who have not ridden for five years will face an automatic retest.
The RAC Foundation is keen to see how effective these measures will be in reducing accidents and injury on French roads; and whether any lessons can be learned to inform road safety measures in Britain and elsewhere in Europe.
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