Two lane roads with no separating guard rail in France will have their default speed limit reduced from 90 to 80 km/h and alcohol interlocks will be required for recidivist drink driving offenders as part of the French government’s latest road safety crack-down.
The measures, announced by the Prime Minister earlier this month, also include the possibility of suspending the license of a driver using a mobile phone at the wheel.
The 80km/h limit has led to a backlash from motoring groups and on social media but the government justified the move by pointing out that 350-400 deaths a year could be prevented by the measure. 55% of French road deaths occur on the country’s 400,000km of rural roads.
By lowering the speed limits to 80, France is following the example of countries with the best safety records in Europe. Sweden has a limit of 70km/h for equivalent roads and has 27 deaths per million inhabitants. Norway (26), Switzerland (26), Denmark (37) and the Netherlands (37) all set the limit at 80km/h. Road deaths in France currently stand at 54 deaths per million inhabitants.
In the neighbouring Belgian region of Flanders, the speed limits on rural roads have been reduced from 90km/h to 70km/h as of January 2017.
ETSC’s German member DVR responded to the French announcement by repeating its long standing call for an 80km/h limit in Germany.
Alcohol interlocks have been a legal option for judges in drink driving cases in France since 2011 but the sanction has only been used a handful of times. All coaches in France are required to have them fitted as standard. The requirement that all recidivist drink driving offenders install an interlock if they wish to continue driving could dramatically reduce reoffending rates, according to ETSC. A number of US and European studies have shown the effectiveness of alcohol interlock rehabilitation programmes for reducing rates of drink driving.