France to experiment with lower speed limits

In an effort to further reduce the number of road deaths, France plans to cut speed limits on certain roads that are particularly dangerous. The move comes despite the country hitting a record low in the number of traffic fatalities.

France to experiment with lower speed limits
France plans to experiment with lower speed limits. Photo: Pascal Guyot/AFP

France’s so-called top cop, Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve, wants French drivers to slow down.

Accordingly he’s going to cut the speed limit by 10 km/h per hour on roads that wherethe current limit is 90km/h as part of a safety experiment, French daily Le Parisien reported on Monday. His goal is to further reduce the deaths on France’s roads, which hit an all-time low last year of 3,268.

Experts told Le Parisien reducing speed limits by 10 km/h could save up to 400 lives per year on the country’s roads. France has already made major progress in road safety, but has set a target of of bringing traffic fatalities below 2,000 by 2020.

However, Cazeneuve noted the speed decrease “will only be experimental and on accident-prone stretches of road.

"We must take the time to properly study this," he said.

He didn't specificy which stretches of road are to be included, except to note they will departmental and national roads that have two-way traffic rather than a central reservation (divider). It's unclear when drivers will have to start sticking to the new slower speeds.

Lower limits are effective in France in part due to the country's web of automatic speed cameras or radars as they are known here. France has a nationwide network of 4,150 cameras, mostly reviled by French drivers, that churned out about 11 million speeding tickets last year, according to recent data.

Last year however was the first time since the cameras were introduced in 2003 that the system turned out fewer tickets. With 2.3 million fewer fines being handed out to speed demons – that’s a 10.8 percent drop on 2012.

The only thing drivers hate worse than the cameras are ever lower speed limits. Speculation about the drop in limits has been bubbling for months and has generated an angry reaction from some drivers and motorists’ protection groups.

One group, Ligue de Défense des Automobilistes, said the limits will cost the French economy €12 billion per year. They believe drivers will stay closer to home due to the lower limit and a longer drive, which will hurt businesses and make it harder to fill some jobs.

SEE ALSO: 'Crazy French drivers': The real rules of 'la route'

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