Le Monde: ‘France has to reduce speed limit to save lives’
Lowering the speed limit on secondary roads in France from 100 to 90 kph is inevitable to save lives, and should be implemented as soon as possible at beginning of the new Macron government’s term, as intended. France’s leading newspaper Le Monde is quite straightforward in its editorial opinion.
The discussion about lowering the speed limits to save lives is not new. In 2013 the French national road security council already proposed to bring back the speed limit on ‘bidirectional two-lane roads without separation’ from 100 to 90 kph.
7.643 deaths in four years
Four years and 7.643 deaths later the government finally should suit the action to the word mid-February 2018, in spite of the ‘catcalls’ by the automobile associations and the car manufacturer’s lobby.
Focusing on secondary roads is difficult to dispute. These regional roads concern 87% of road casualties outside agglomerations and 55% of total road casualties. Following the directives of the United Nations France should fix its objectives to bring back the number of casualties under 2.000 by 2020, compared to 3.655 today. Focusing on this particularly dangerous roads makes sense thus.
As general mortality has decreased with 13% since 2010, last three years a worrying increase of the number of casualties on the roads has shown. The 2020 goal seems to be more and more out of reach. To get there, you have to keep a pace of decreasing the numbers 6,7% per 10 years. Counting on the actual security infrastructure and repression to reach these figures is illusory.
Apart from the family dramas caused by these accidents, the economical cost was 50 billion euro in 2016, being 1,5% of France’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Like Emmanuel Macron stated on September 5th, resign oneself in this situation is ‘unacceptable‘ and needs ‘an ambitious and collective reaction’.
400 lives saved per year
Experts confirm that lowering the speed limit from 100 to 90 kph would permit ‘to save 350 to 400 lives per year’. This number is contested by the automobile organizations, who say speed is not the problem, but insufficient infrastructure and lack of road maintenance is.
They accuse the government just wanting to fill the states’ pockets by intensifying repression and discriminate to some extend rural areas which don’t have fast traffic axes.
Speed is initiating factor
On the other hand the road security office reminds that speed is ‘often an initiating factor for accidents’ – in one out of three cases like alcohol – and almost always ‘an aggravating one’.
The automotive lobby asks the government to abandon the plan on the pretext that the majority of French is opposed to it. But every time legislation was sharpened, we heard the same arguments. In 1973 when speed limit went to 100 kph, then 90 kph, when more than 16.000 people died on the road. But also in 2003, when Jacques Chirac installed the first fixed radar traps.
These unpopular measures nevertheless contributed to the significant decrease of casualties. Road safety is a domain capable of saving lives, but can lead to loosing votes at elections. The more reason to take this measures at the beginning of the political term.