French Government Plans To Reduce Speed Limits On Countryside Roads

Speed Limits

Despite strong opposition from locals, road enforcement agencies are planning to reduce speed limits on roads in the French countryside. Members of the French government argue these lower speed limits will save hundreds of people from traffic-related fatalities.

Edouard Philippe, France's current prime minister, will make a public statement about these speed reductions in the coming days. In past interviews with the press, Mr. Philippe suggested bringing 90km/h speed limits down to 80km/h on about 400km of departmental roads.

Authorities in favor of this speed reduction point to the results of a road safety experiment on three French roads between 2015 and 2017. All three roads in this study brought their speed limits down from 90km/h to 80km/h per hour.

During the testing period, researchers found that there were 20 total accidents, three traffic fatalities, and 42 injuries. In years prior to this survey, traffic accidents on these roads averaged 67 with 15 fatalities and 108 injuries.

Despite these figures, at least 40 million French motorists believe these speed reductions won't help curb road accident fatalities. To support their opinion, many motorist rights groups point out a Danish study in which researchers changed one road's speed limit from 80km/h to 90km/h for two years. Interestingly, Danish researchers found that there was a 13 percent drop in traffic-related fatalities on this road during the test period.

A recent survey conducted by YouGov found that 67 percent of French residents oppose the new speed reduction. 100 percent of traffic safety groups, however, supported Mr. Philippe's proposal.

Sadly, France has one of the worst track records in Europe for traffic-related fatalities. There were 3,469 fatalities on French roads in 2016 alone. Safety experts also point out that France's traffic mortality rate has only gone up since 2014.

55 percent of all traffic-related deaths in France occur on two-way roads near urban areas. Almost all of these roads have 90km/h speed limits.

Bernard Cazeneuve, who once served as France's interior minister, blamed most of these tragic accidents on reckless driving habits. Cazeneuve believed France's drivers were far too "relaxed" about following the rules of the road and were more prone to take risks when speed limits were set at 90km/h.

Interestingly, a recent BVA survey found that most French people agree with Cazeneuve's characterization of their driving habits. A whopping 75 percent of respondents said they don't take speed limits seriously.

Philippe knows that this new measure will be unpopular, but he believes it's the right thing to do. If all goes according to plan, French lawmakers could be considering this bill as early as July 1st.

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