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France sets an example over fall in road deaths

Ben McPartland · 29 Apr 2014, 13:28

Published: 29 Apr 2014 13:28 GMT+02:00

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French drivers may get a bad reputation, especially from expats living in France, but safety has improved on the country’s more than in almost all other European countries.

A new report published on Tuesday by European road safety body ETSC revealed that the number of road deaths across the continent had dropped by 55 percent.

In terms of the number of fatalities that reflects a drop from 27, 700 killed on the roads in 2001 to 12,345, killed in 2012.

Although Spain had made the most progress with a 12 percent drop in road deaths, followed by Latvia on 11 percent, France came in third with an almost 9 percent dip in fatalities over the same time frame.

That’s better than the European average, which stands at a 7.4 percent fall.

At the other end of the scale was Romania, that saw a drop of less than one percent and Poland which saw a fall in road deaths of just under 4 percent. In the UK the number of fatalities was just above the European average of 7.4 percent.

'Crazy French drivers': The real rules of la Route in France 

Road safety has been made a priority under the socialist government, with various measures having been taken to cut the number of road deaths from the introduction of hidden mobile speed cameras to suggested drops in speed limits.

In January this year The Local reported how France saw a record drop in the number of deaths on its roads meaning they were at their lowest level since 1948.

A government plan to drop the speed limit on secondary roads to 80 km/h has been met with opposition from motorist groups.

But according to the ETSC survey it is France’s secondary road network that poses the greatest danger.

Around 80 percent of fatal accidents are on secondary of roads. Almost half of fatal accidents involve just one vehicle and 30 percent are due to head-on collisions.

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A new survey published on Thursday also revealed French drivers were still fond of some bad driving habits.

The TNS Sofres survey revealed that one in two drivers have used their mobile phones whilst driving. Drivers also admitted to breaking the speed limits when restricted to driving at 50 km/h in towns. But on a postive note there was a notable drop in the number of drivers who admitted to getting behind the wheel of a car after having downed a few alcoholic drinks.

What can France and the rest of Europe do to improve things further? ETSC recommends implementing stricter laws regarding speed, drink-driving and the wearing of seat-belts.

It also recommends improving the instruction given to learner-drivers. France is also considering a controversial change to the law that would allow 15-year-old's to get behind the wheel of a car.

Ben McPartland (ben.mcpartland@thelocal.com)

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