Pierre Chasseray, who heads the French drivers' organization 40 Million d'Automobilistes, speaks out about the raft of new measures introduced on Friday in a bid to cut the ever-increasing number of road deaths in France.
Among those measures is a plan to roll out another 500 speed cameras to bring the number to 4,700. On top of that there will be many more cameras placed in unmarked police cars to snare motorists committing a variety of offences.
Here Chasseray tells The Local why French drivers need to be taught to drive responsibly rather than being repeatedly punished by the law.
“We know that the UK is among the top three countries in Europe when it comes to its record on road safety.
“We can learn from the UK that it's not about bringing in more laws and rules that we can save lives, but by persuading the public of the importance of road safety. We need to convince the French of that.
“For example, in the UK the legal drink-driving limit is 0.8 grams of alcohol (per litre of blood), whereas in France it’s 0.5 grams and 0.2 for young people. And yet, there are more drink-driving deaths in France than in the UK.
“That’s the proof that you need to teach drivers to take more responsibility, because British people drink as much, if not more than the French but they just don’t drink and drive. In France, it's a real problem.
“We have to have a policy of prevention and to raise awareness by following the UK's example and show we are courageous enough to deactivate speed cameras.
“We can ask the French people to make an effort if we give them something, but at the moment we just ask them to make this effort without giving motorists anything in return and it just doesn't work.
'We treat French drivers like children'
“We have had trouble convincing the French about the need for road safety because we have tried to do it by taking punitive measures. To really bring about a change in habits they need to understand the message.
“We do not need to treat them like children. In order for people to be convinced, they have to understand the measures. We have to raise awareness, not endlessly blame people.It’s just a problem of behaviour and we have to improve this.
“For example we need to explain to them the importance of keeping a safe distance from the car in front, but that's not punishment.
“Fining people just annoys and irritates them, it doesn't make them drive any better.
“Having said that, the UK drivers who come to France are the tourists who are flashed the most by speed cameras so I don't think we can really say that French drivers are the worst in the world.
“We have trained drivers in France to believe that speed is the only cause of an accident, but in the UK they have explained that is the all-round behaviour of the driver that is important.
“To change drivers' behaviour, we have to change the ways of communicating with French drivers.”
“In France they wanted to introduce a similar system like in the UK, where they have speed cameras that are not activated or in use.
“The problem is the UK was more intelligent. The UK deactivated speed cameras rather rolling out more, but in France we are adding more speed cameras as well as thousands of fake ones.
“Many of the measures announced on Friday are good, the problem is that French drivers, when hearing these new measures, will only remember the fact that there will be 500 more speed cameras installed and 10,000 fake ones.
“We have set up an online petition where the public can protest against these measures and we had 60,000 signatures in one day. This shows the public are fed up.
“It's just too much. The French realize this is not about road safety anymore, it's about money. That's what they are thinking at least.
“Whether it's true or not we don't know, but if they are thinking it then it means the government are sending out the wrong message around road safety.
“The message sent out by the prime minister is about “speed cameras and earning money” and that's a disaster, a real disaster.”