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Tuesday, 17 September, 2002, 20:58 GMT 21:58 UK
France wages war on dangerous drivers
Paris circular road
The Paris peripherique is a notorious death-trap
France's appalling record on road safety has spurred the government into announcing a tough and potentially unpopular campaign against reckless drivers.

Ministers held a high-profile meeting on Tuesday to discuss measures to stem the number of people killed and injured on the roads.

"With more than 8,000 dead and 26,000 injured every year, the insecurity on the roads which affects the French so severely is not worthy of a modern country," said President Jacques Chirac on the eve of the meeting.

The situation is so serious that road accidents are now the prime cause of death among young people under 30.

Speed and alcohol

While the number of road deaths is generally falling in other European countries, fatalities have risen in the past year-and-a-half in France.


In France, between 40% and 45% of speeding offences are never followed up. It's like a banana republic

Dr Claude Got
Mr Chirac called for "greater severity towards drivers who break the rules - and tougher rules for those who drive under the influence of dangerous substances".

Measures could include changing the speed limit - currently among the highest in Europe at 130 kph (81 mph) - a reduction in the permitted level of alcohol and improvements in vehicle safety.

Two-thirds of drivers are estimated to break the speed limit and one in three road deaths is thought to be caused by drunk driving.

Laissez-faire attitude

The Interior Ministry also has plans to create a special highway police force, similar to the one in the United States.

The government is to put a draft law before parliament later this year.

But some say better enforcement, rather than new laws, is what is required.

"It is quite obvious where we have gone wrong. As an example, in France, between 40% and 45% of speeding offences are never followed up. It's like a banana republic," Claude Got, a doctor specialising in road safety, told AFP.

"Punishments need to be seen as automatic," he said.

See also:

11 Oct 01 | N Ireland
25 Mar 02 | Europe
26 Oct 01 | Europe
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