France had ‘historic low’ of 3,239 road deaths in 2019

The French interior minister has hailed recent road death figures as "historically low" as debates over changing speed limits continue

There was a “historically low” number of road deaths in France in 2019, according to interior minister Christophe Castaner, as debates over safety and speed limits continue.

Last year, there were 3,239 road deaths, according to the government.

Mr Castaner said: “This is a historically low number. It is actually the lowest number we have seen since records began. This is because we have brought strong policies to road safety.

“Our citizens are aware of the risks on the road, and we must, alongside them, help people to understand that behaviour change [and] measures for road safety, are measures that change lives.”

Speed limit shifts

The figure for 2019 marks a change from the numbers for 2018 - which initially recorded a rise in road deaths - and comes in the wake of continued debate over the change from 90kph to 80kph on national roads across France.

Introduced in July 2018, the measure has been controversial, with some saying that it will make no difference to safety, and some departments already choosing to revert to 90kph.

Soon after the change, the government said that related vandalism to up to 75% of the country’s speed cameras between 2018-2019 had cost an estimated €660 million.

At the same time, national road safety agency l'Observatoire National Interministériel de la Sécurité Routière (ONISR) also suggested that this damage to speed cameras could have contributed to the 17.1% increase in road deaths that were recorded for February 2019.

President Emmanuel Macron has previously suggested there was a direct link between the speed camera damage and the rise in road deaths.

‘Total failure’?

But critics of the government’s speed changes have said that the 80kph limit has made no impact on road safety, with Alain Fouché, Independent senator for the Vienne department, condemning the “government’s total failure on road safety.”

Yet, in March 2019, Anne Lavaud, from road safety association Prévention Routière, said it was likely too soon to draw any conclusions. She said: “As a minimum, we would need this measure to be in place for 2-5 years to show its effectiveness.”

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