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Speeders to face blitz on roads

Speeders to face blitz on roads

STRICT measures being imposed on drivers in a bid to reduce the rising road death toll have drawn protests from road safety groups, drivers’ groups and MPs in the governing UMP party.

The changes include banning radar detectors, getting rid of speed check warnings and imposing heavier penalties for drink-driving and for the use of mobile phones or TVs while driving. Bikers and scooter riders must also wear reflective clothing and have larger numberplates on new vehicles.

Interior minister Claude Guéant said road deaths rose 13% in the first quarter of this year with a 20% rise in April when 355 people died. Eight accidents over the spring holiday had caused 30 deaths. His proposals will be introduced before September and radar warning signs have already been dismantled and maps of speed-check sites have already vanished from his ministry website.

However, UMP MPs attacked the plan to abolish radar warnings at meetings with prime minister François Fillon and Mr Guéant with Creuse MP Jean Auclair saying: “If we do this we will lose the elections.” Mr Guéant said the decision to take away the warning signs was final and it was “not a question of annoying people but of saving lives”.

Chantal Perrichon of the Ligue Contre la Violence Routière said they were “very disappointed” as the moves were not enough. With 3,994 deaths in 2010, the figures look set to rise by around 400 this year.

The Association Française des Automobilistes welcomed the bid to cut drink-driving but said the focus on radar speed traps would mean more people driving without a licence. It was surprised radar warnings were abolished as they were introduced in 2003 by then interior minister Nicolas Sarkozy so as not “to trap drivers”. It added that motorcyclist safety would not be helped by increasing the size of numberplates on new machines.

Radar manufacturers have formed a group to challenge the plans and said the six million people using radars in France were not delinquents, just taxi drivers, commercial travellers, lorry drivers and others who used them to keep safe. It could cost 2,000 jobs.

It has called for a nationwide road blockage to protest the plans on June 2 and will look at rebranding equipment to highlight “risk areas” as radars are supposed to be sited at blackspots.

Importers and manufacturers face two years’ jail and a €30,000 fine while users face a €1,500 fine and six points. Bikers’ group Fédération Française des Motards en Colère has called a national protest on June 18 and pulled out of a Paris Préfecture road safety display.

Figures showed the motorcycle death toll fell 20% in 2010 from 1,144 to 941. Motorcyclists and scooterists will have to wear high-visibility or reflective jackets and new machines will have to get larger numberplates. There is still no automatic ban for drink-drivers but they will now lose eight points from their licence rather than the present six.

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