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Road deaths down after radar debate

Media coverage of the speed camera row and the lack of long holiday weekends in May help explain first decline in 2011

THE DEBATE on speed cameras and the lack of long bank holiday weekends in May have led to the first decline in road deaths in France since the new year.

Some 317 people were killed on French roads last month, down six per cent on May 2010. The number of people taken to hospital with injuries also fell six per cent to 2,611.

The figures had been steadily increasing in the first four months of the year, prompting the government to announce new measures on speeding. Since then it has gone back on some of its plans, such as a ban on radar warning devices.

The president of the Ligue Contre la Violence Routière, Chantal Perrichon, said: "Although what the government announced was not enough for us, it did at least put the subject of road safety back on the media agenda."

However, she said the number of road deaths for the rest of this year would have to fall by 25% for President Sarkozy to reach his target of fewer than 3,000 deaths in a year.

Interior minister Claude Guéant thanked the police for their work and said the debate on radars had improved public awareness of the dangers of speeding.

However, another explanation for the decline in road deaths is the lack of any long holiday weekends in May. The two bank holidays in the month fell on Sundays, making it difficult for people to take long breaks.

The French road safety body, Sécurité Routière, says the exceptionally dry weather also helped to improve road conditions.

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