Causes of deaths on French motorways act as warning to drivers

The Local France
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Causes of deaths on French motorways act as warning to drivers
Photo: AFP

Some 166 people died on autoroutes in France last year. But what exactly is the cause for these fatal accidents? A new study has the answers that will act as a warning to all those taking to motorways around France this summer.


A new survey by the Association of French Motorways (ASFA) shows that in a majority of fatal accidents on France's motorways the motorists were at fault. 
While the number of deaths on France's motorways have halved since the year 2000, in 2017, there were still 150 fatal accidents which killed a total of 166 people. 
The ASFA report, the results of which were revealed by Le Parisien, takes an in-depth look at the reasons behind the accidents reveals that on France's 9,000 km of motorways motorists are not always acting with the correct amount of caution behind the wheel. 
The major factors leading to the motorway deaths are drowsiness and fatigue, which are behind 25.3 percent of accidents, suggesting drivers are not stopping for rests when they need to.
The use of alcohol or drugs, which are also behind 25.3 percent of fatal accidents. 
On top of that, distracted drivers (11.3 percent), dangerous manoeuvres (8.7 percent) and speeding (12.7 percent) also have a significant impact on the number of deaths on France's motorways. 
Here's a look at some of the most worrying stats from the report. 
What you need to know about driving on France's motorways
Photo: AFP
26 percent of those killed were not wearing their belts
Wearing a seat belt in the front of a car has been obligatory in France since 1973 and it was made obligatory for the back seat in 1990. 
However the ASFA report shows that drivers aren't aware of the risk they're taking by not wearing their belt. 
"It's probably a generational problem," Emmanuel Barbe the government's road safety tsar told Le Parisien. "Because children usually have the reflex to put it [the seat belt] on while those who remember a time when there wasn't even a belt in the back of cars tend to forget to buckle up as passengers."
Indeed, French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe was caught on camera not wearing a seat belt in his car at the Tour de France just last week (see below). 
"Whatever the length of your trip, even if it is to go to the beach, an accident can happen and it is imperative to put on a seat belt," said the president of the league against road violence, Chantal Perrichon.
The chance of dying in a car accident if you're not wearing your seat belt is increased by ten and according to the country's road safety department, more than 350 lives could have been saved across France's entire road network last year if 100 percent of people had buckled up when they got in a car. 
25 percent of accidents were related to alcohol, drugs or medication
The number of accidents involving alcohol, drugs or medication has increased from 15 percent to 25 percent in two years. 
Male drivers under the age of 35 are the most represented in this type of accident, which mainly occurs at night and on weekends.
Photo: AFP
"In the majority of alcohol-related accidents, drivers knew they were not fit to drive," said Barbe.
Figures from the report show that three out of five alcoholic drivers had a blood alcohol level greater than or equal to 1.2 g per litre of blood while, according to the law, this should not exceed 0.5 g per litre.  
Public campaigns attempting to dissuade people from driving under the influence in France have said that a person who has been drinking is 8.5 times more likely to be responsible for a fatal accident. 
"What worries us the most is that we now see drivers mixing alcohol consumption and cannabis, which increases the risk of having an accident by 27," Barbe told Le Parisien. "The worst is that many people think they are better drivers when they have smoked [cannabis]."
Younger drivers more guilty of not paying attention
A total of 42 percent of accidents relating to drivers not paying attention to the road involve 18-34 year-olds. 
While this demographic have a reputation for speeding, they are actually much more likely than other age groups to cause accidents related to not focussing on the road, which ASFA puts down to the use of smartphones, tablets and other screens when driving. 
"We need more control over people's use of their phones while driving, " said Chantal Perrichon from the league against road violence. 
The government's road safety body is dedicated to highlighting the dangers associated with using smartphones in the car and yet eight million French people continue to consult their phones when driving, according to statistics in the French press
And this is particularly true of younger drivers, with 61 percent of drivers under 35 reading texts while driving and 32 percent of them writing them. 
Photo: AFP
So, what can be done?
Well, aside from motorists improving their behaviour behind the wheel, road safety tsar Emmanuel Barbe believes that it may be a question of relying on technology to save drivers from themselves. 
"On the highway, we can count on autonomous vehicle technology in the future which will see drivers benefit from emergency braking systems, adaptive speed regulators and dashboards capable of waking you up in case of drowsiness," said Barbe.



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