Cops in unmarked cars will be scouring the southwestern region’s roads on Friday – when many people will head off on trips at the start of the school holidays – for responsible drivers as part of a new carrot-and-stick approach to lower the number of road deaths.
The stick part, which is the long-standing practice of punishing speeding or other dangerous driving practices with fines or by removing points from the driver’s licence, has failed to make the roads safer.
The carrot part, which local authorities say they are testing to show that road safety measures are not always “repressive’,” involves an unmarked police vehicle following unsuspecting drivers for around 15 minutes.
The officers will watch to see if the driver stops at pedestrian crossings, makes proper use of indicators when turning, stays well within the speed limit, and generally drives in a manner that shows he or she is taking other drivers and pedestrians into consideration.
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The 15 minutes will also be used to check that the driver being followed has not lost any licence points or been fined for traffic offences.
If not, then he or she will be pulled over by the police car and will be congratulated and handed a voucher for €50 worth of petrol by a journalist from the local France Bleu Périgord radio station which is sponsoring the initiative.
The driver will also get a moment of fame as the event will be recorded for broadcast on the radio station, which will hand out a total of four vouchers on Friday.
“With a punitive approach, with repression and more local police checkpoints, we felt that we were still not dealing with the issue in its entirety, and that it would be good to single out people who drive well, who are attentive, who think of others,” said Anne-Gaëlle Beaudouin-Clerc, the top government official in the Dordogne department.
The initiative is to be carried out six times this year on busy days at the start of school holidays or bank holiday weekends.
In 2013 the number of road deaths in France stood at 3,268 – an all-time low.
But since then the toll has been rising steadily once again and in 2017 there were nearly 3,500 – double the number of fatalities on roads in the UK (1,792).
The government last month announced a series of measures to bring down the number of deaths, including some way of rewarding exemplary drivers.