In a bid to improve driving etiquette, a motorists association in France is selling stickers to go on the back of cars with the letter “S” printed on them.
The “S” doesn’t stand for “scared” but for “senior” and it is hoped drivers will act a little bit more courteously when they realise the car in front is being driven by an elderly person.
In theory the “S” sign, just like the “A” sign for learner drivers, is meant to alert other drives that that the driver of the car in front might just react a little bit slower or more hesitantly than others.
They may not, for example, zoom off as soon as the light turns green and they may take their time overtaking on the autoroute to ensure they don't crash.
The Signal Senior association has sold over 1,200 stickers so far and hopes they will save not just shredded nerves and stress, but even lives.
Around 16 percent of drivers on French roads are over 65 and they are twice as likely to die when crashes occur than younger people, according to the organisation Prevention Routiere.
The association's president Gilles Renard summed up the benefits of the stickers.
“Those who are already using the sticker are happy because they are no longer honked at by other road users, they are left in peace and are much better respected.”
Which has made us wonder why the association can’t bring out a series of stickers for British drivers.
Granted the British license plate should get the message across to French drivers that the driver in the car in front might not react how they want, but it doesn’t seem to be enough given the amount of complaints aired on our articles about driving in France.
And then there are those who hire cars with French number plates in France or who have their own French car. They need stickers!
For a start the association could easily start producing a big sticker with RB on it. The RB stands for “Rosbif” or Roast Beef in English, which is how the French semi-affectionately refer to Brits.
The “RB” would immediately alert the French driver to the fact the driver in front is indeed on the wrong side of the road to normal and therefore slightly more nervous and probably going a little slower than they would like.
Ideally the “RB” would be placed on the front of the car too, so drivers get adequate warning that we might go the wrong way round a roundabout and not stop to give priority to those on the right, called “prioritaire a droit” in French.
Although the sticker would also alert them to the fact that we are likely to speed on open motorways and get caught by the police, but not bother paying the fines into French coffers.
Maybe some foreign drivers are not “Rosbifs” or perhaps don’t want to advertise the fact they are, so separate stickers are needed to give French drivers warning that they need to put the brakes on some aspects of their driving culture when we are around.
A sticker with the words “Distance svp!” could possibly alert French drivers not to tailgate or drive up the backside of someone on the motorway, which tends to make British drivers very anxious indeed.
And similarly a sticker “Espace svp!” could let them know not to park tight against our bumpers, because we’d have no idea how to get out.
Maybe one with just a symbol of an ear with a cross through it would tell them not to bother beeping if they get frustrated with us.
Surely there's something in this.
Ben McPartland, an Englishman