Record Police Presence On French Roads For The Holidays

Major new initiatives to tackle worsening road safety, but France is not the only one to struggle this year.


Photo @Gendarmerie

Photo @Gendarmerie

Another significant rise in road deaths will see record numbers of police on the roads of France over the Christmas and New Year holiday.

Following an increase of 13.6% in October, fatal accidents rose by 10.7% in November (compared to the same months in 2013).

Big road safety gains made in 2013 have steadily unwound throughout this year. On current trends, road deaths look set to increase by 5% in 2014, the first rise in twelve years.

In response, Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve today announced a major new road safety initiative to be launched in January, ‘to fight against all the causes of road accidents: speed, alcohol, drugs, use of the phone to better protect all road users’.

Meanwhile, a new record of nearly 18,000 police will be on the roads during the school holidays and 22,000 during the night of New Year’s Eve.

Increased traffic police presence is common after disappointing accident stats in France. The previous high was 15,000 in July.

As in October, November’s increases almost all came from vulnerable road users. Pedestrian fatalities were up 15%, cyclists were up 5% and moped riders by 9%.

It will be scant consolation that other major countries in Europe are struggling with road safety.

According to the European Road Safety Council both the UK and Germany have seen a rise in deaths and serious injuries this year.

Campaigners blame the rise in the UK on government cuts. In France the situation has been attributed to a backlash against unmarked camera cars introduced in March 2013. It’s not clear what has caused the rise in Germany.

Last year, the only two European countries to see overall increases in fatal road accidents were Luxembourg and Ireland. We asked then if it was a blip or a harbinger. Both look set to rise again this year.

New transport commissioner Violeta Bulc has vowed to make road safety her top priority. After a decade of significant progress in Europe it had looked like she had more important things to worry about. Not anymore.

Also, the French national road safety council said last week it would trial reducing the speed limit to 80kmh on single lane main roads, and alcolock immobilisers, though it didn’t say which roads. Also announced was a three month experiment – starting last Friday, in the Rhone, Gironde and Alpes-Maritime – on new ‘double tap’ radar cameras to photograph the front and rear of vehicles to improve detection rates (which currently average only 62%). Intended to go live in 2016, drivers picked up during this first phase will not be prosecuted.


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