A dummy goes flying at a crash test course for students in Le Mans, north-western France. Photo: AFP
UPDATED: France's interior minister announced a raft of measures on Monday aimed at improving road safety, with a heavy focus on preventing alcohol-related accidents as well the use of mobiles at the wheel.
The end of year figures for the number of road deaths in France does not make for pleasant reading for France's Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve, whose government has vowed to cut the number of fatalities.
Cazeneuve confirmed on Monday that France saw a 3.7 percent rise in the number of deaths in 2014, with a total of 3,388 fatalities recorded in total.
And the minister has vowed to act quickly, with the new measures aimed at cracking down on rogue drivers in a bid to cut the number of accidents and fatalities by 2020.
Road safety groups in France have criticised the government for not announcing any new measures since March 2013, when it rolled out the use of speed cameras in unmarked police cars.
Jehanne Collard, a lawyer for victims of road accidents in France and an author of a book of the subject said habits needed to change.
"There is a real deterioration in terms of the behavior on the road. Fatal accidents often involving cyclists, pedestrians and scooter drivers are related to excessive speeds and risk-taking, such as overtaking blind," she told Le Figaro.
Collard also lambasted the government for turning its back on an issue that can "leave families destroyed".
"This current government does nothing. It has washed its hands of what is happening today on our roads. Yet, the consequences are severe. One person dies at the wheel and it's a whole family that is destroyed," she said.
Cazeneuve's biggest priority is to tackle those who get behind the wheel after drinking alcohol, given that alcohol is the number one cause of fatalities on French roads.
The minister announced 26 new measures, here is a look at the most significant:
- Zero tolerance on alcohol for young drivers
Despite several shock campaigns aimed at dissuading young people from drink-driving, it appears they have failed to work and the government has decided to get tough. There will be a zero tolerance approach towards young people and drink driving. The legal alcohol limit will be reduced from the current 0.5mg/ml to 0.2mg/ml for young drivers, which is basically the equivalent of less than a half a pint.
- Earpieces and headphones will be forbidden while driving
The interior minister wants to "improve the attention" of drivers at the wheel and pointed to the fact that one road death in ten is linked to mobile phone use. As a result measure 22 outo f 26 saw him ban the use of hands free-kits and earphones.
The interior ministry sent out a tweet confirming the banning of all kinds earphones, headsets and hands-free kits "that limit the attention of drivers".
- Increase the number of "double-face" speed cameras
There are currently 4,150 speed cameras throughout France and although the government does not plan to install anymore, there will be more "double-faced" speed cameras that can snare drivers travelling in both directions. There will also be more mobile hand-held devices.
The French government wants clear windows on all cars. Currently, only tainted windscreens are banned, but Cazeneuve intends to see this extended to cover all car windows in the coming years.
- Improving safety at pedestrian crossings
Vehicles will be prevented from parking within five metres of pedestrian crossings, with the exception of motorbikes and mopeds. This comes after there were 465 deaths on these crossings in 2013. Stricter sanctions will be applied to drivers violating the law. Drivers parking on pedestrian crossings will be severely penalized.
Other measures included a one-year-reduction for teenagers when it comes to driving under supervision, allowing 15-year-olds to get behind the wheel. Also, any shops selling alcohol between 2am and 7am which do not offer their customers breathalyzers will be penalized and could be prevented from opening at night and selling alcoholic drinks.
by Priscillia Charles