French roads were safer in the busy holiday month of August than in any other August since records were first collected in 1956, according to data released on Monday by the national highway agency, Sécurité Routière.

"/> French roads were safer in the busy holiday month of August than in any other August since records were first collected in 1956, according to data released on Monday by the national highway agency, Sécurité Routière.

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Road deaths hit lowest ever August level

French roads were safer in the busy holiday month of August than in any other August since records were first collected in 1956, according to data released on Monday by the national highway agency, Sécurité Routière.

A total of 368 deaths were recorded on the roads, a drop of 3.9 percent on the 2010 August figure of 383. Road accident casualties requiring hospital treatment also fell, from 2,715 in August 2010 to 2,188 this year. 

The news was welcome relief for road safety authorities after a series of bad figures earlier in the year pushed the level of deaths above the 2010 total. In 2010, the number of deaths fell for the first time below the 4,000 barrier. Nicolas Sarkozy has pledged to get the number down to below 3,000 in 2012.

Taken as a whole, 18 more people have been killed in 2011 compared with the same point last year. 

The summer’s encouraging results were “the result of a strong mobilization by police, particularly around the time of holidays and in bad weather,” said Sécurité Routière.

Overall, France has made huge improvements in road safety over the last decade. A report by the European Commission in July 2010 showed the number of fatalities on French roads falling by 48 percent between 2001 and 2009. This was better than the European average of 36 percent.

Overall, the report said there were 67 deaths per million inhabitants on the country’s roads in 2009. This compared to an EU average of 69, with the safest countries being the UK (38), Sweden (39) and the Netherlands (39) and the worst Romania (130) and Poland (120).

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Drivers in France to be spied on by 400 ‘super speed cameras’

Hundreds of hi-tech “speed cameras of the future” are to be be installed this year on roads across France, which has had three quarters of its existing cameras vandalised since the start of the “yellow vest” protests several months ago.

Drivers in France to be spied on by 400 'super speed cameras'
A vandalised speed camera in Corsica in December. Photo: AFP

The cameras, perched on four-metre tall posts, have been tested in Marseille and Strasbourg and now 400 of them will be rolled out over the coming year, with three times that number to be set up next year, France Info reported.

The devices are capable of not only clocking your speed but also recording a variety of other misdemeanours, such as phoning while driving, sudden swerving, not wearing a seatbelt, or overtaking on the right, which is illegal in France.

But in the short term the cameras, whose brand name is the Mesta Fusion 2 and which can monitor eight lanes of traffic and several vehicles at once, will be used only to catch people speeding.

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There will be four decoy cameras for each operating one, and the decoys and the real ones will be switched regularly to prevent drivers figuring out which are the ones catching them breaking the law.

The new cameras are said to be far harder to vandalise than existing ones.

 

The French government last week blamed a steep rise in road deaths in February on the yellow vest movement, during which three quarters of speed cameras on the country’s roads have been vandalised or put out of action in recent months.

Official figures said that 253 people were killed on the roads in France in February, a 17.1 percent increase on the same time last year.

Previously road deaths had been going down. There were 3,259 deaths on the country's roads in 2018 – down from 3,448 deaths the previous year.

But they have started to rise again since the yellow vest movement began late last year.

Some protesters angry about planned rises in fuel tax and the rising costs of travel to work, and about a recent lowering of speed limits on some roads, turned their ire on speed cameras.

 
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