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Tougher penalties to cut road deaths

Speeding motorists, drink drivers and motorcyclists targeted in road safety blitz with heavier penalties

TOUGHER road safety measures are being introduced to cut road deaths and are aimed at speeding motorists, drink drivers and motorcyclists.

In all, 18 measures are being introduced. They include:
• A ban on radar detectors
• The end of signs giving advance warning of speedtraps (and the published maps of speedtrap sites)
• Speeding at more than 50kph above the limit is punishable with jail
• More points to be taken off the licence for drink driving
• A heavier penalty for mobile phone use and for using DVDs or computer screens while driving
• Motorcycle and scooter riders must wear reflective or high-visibility jackets
• Two-wheeler numberplates to be made larger.

The measures follow four months of increasing numbers of deaths on the roads with 331 dead in January (up from 273 in 2010), 273 in February (254), 308 in March (300) and 355 in April (296).

Reducing road deaths was a major plank in President Sarkozy’s election campaign in 2007 and the interior ministry said that road safety improvements had saved 23,000 lives since 2002 when more than 9,000 were dying each year.

Interior Minister Claude Guéant said the new measures would be introduced before September.

Radar detectors will be banned with importers and manufacturers facing up to two years in prison and a €30,000 fine while anyone with such equipment in a vehicle will face a class 5 contravention and is liable to a €1,500 fine and the loss of six points.

Warning signs for radars – which at present are fitted within 400m of older radars and up to 2km from new installations – will be taken down and drivers will not be alerted to the presence of speed traps. Maps publicising the placement of radars and speed controls will no longer be published. Plans have already been announced for an extra 1,000 speed camera sites across France.

Drivers who speed at more than 50kph above the set limit will, from the first offence, be liable to three months’ prison, a €3,750 fine and six points from their licence. In 2010 there were 25,046 such offences.

Drink drivers face losing eight points from their licence rather than the present six if their blood/alcohol limit is higher than 0.8g per litre. Nurses will now be allowed to carry out the tests, rather than only doctors. In all, 30% of road accidents involve someone whose alcohol level is above the limits.

An alcohol tester is to be developed to stop drivers over the limit driving a vehicle with more than nine seats.

Users of two-wheeler of more than 125cc face having to wear jackets with reflective bands or high-visibility jackets to make them easier to see if they fall off their machines. Non-use will mean the loss of two points from the licence

Motorcycle numberplates will be made larger so they can be traced more easily for speed offences. New plates will be 275x200 mm and will be fitted to new or newly-registered vehicles. Any numberplate that does not conform to regulations (car or motorcycle) will face a €135 fine.

Riders who have not ridden for five years will face an automatic retest.

Driving while using a mobile phone will cost a €135 fine and three points off the licence. Phone use is implicated in one in 10 accidents and there were 506,000 such offences in 2010.

Driving while watching a DVD or computer screen will become a class 5 offence instead of class 4; and will mean a €1,500 fine instead of €135. Three points will be lost, instead of two. This measure is aimed mainly at lorry drivers who drive while watching a video.

Driving on the hard shoulder will result in an increased penalty of €135. In 2009, 225 people died on autoroutes, including 26 on the hard shoulder. Eight of them were pedestrians.

Noise bands will also be fitted to hard shoulders to stop drivers from falling asleep.

Photo: Simon Coste - Fotolia

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