Compulsory speed limiters could be in cars sooner than you think and it will be a good thing, according to Chantal Perrichon. She is head of the Ligue Contre la Violence Routière (LCVR), a leading road safety campaign group.
The LCVR, seen as being one of the main forces behind the reduction of speed limits on many secondary roads from 90kph to 80kph (now relaxed), is not giving up, despite numerous political attacks from right-wing parties.
“I have received death threats on my telephone,” said Ms Perrichon. “Our website has been filled with threats. The police are taking it seriously and I have to be careful.
“This politicisation of road safety is terrible. It should be something that unites all political parties, not used for short-term populist vote-grabbing.”
Despite the threats, she is determined the LCVR will continue and is making compulsory speed limiters one of its projects.
“The technology has been ready since 2006,” she said. “If it was applied to all cars there will be no need to have radars, which should please those who say radars are just there to give money to the state. But, no, if anything, it makes them more irrational.”
She said that some of the push towards compulsory speed limiters, which adapt the maximum speed according to the limits in force on each section of road, has come from car-builders. “For years, they were the strongest lobby against the idea,” she said. “Now they realise that, without having them in place, it will be impossible to have any form of autonomous or near- autonomous cars on the road, which is what they see as the future.
“We have seen opposition to the idea lessen. We want the French and other European governments to act quickly.”
A similar situation has arisen with black boxes in cars, which can be used after accidents to determine responsibility.
“They have been used in the US for years because constructors saw it was a way of reducing their legal liabilities.
“In Europe, the car manufacturers have always blocked the idea because the legal system is different. Now they see that unless they can use the data from vehicles, autonomous driving will never happen, and so opposition to the idea is less.”
The Ligue was set up by its first chairman Geneviève Jurgensen, who lost two daughters in a road accident.
Ms Perrichon, who describes herself as an activist on public health issues since the 1970s, took over as chairman in 2004.
She says people have to stop thinking their cars are their personal space, which gives them freedom to do what they want.
“Once you are on the road, you are in shared space, even if you are alone in your car, and you have to obey the rules, which keep that shared space safe,” she said.
“Egoists and individualists who think they are the best drivers and have perfect control of their vehicles are the ones who end up before the courts after leaving innocent people hurt, or worse.”
She said the rise in the number of deaths on the roads in the last three months is a catastrophe and she puts the blame firmly on the destruction of radar speed traps.
“We need a return both to manned radar traps and to the use of unmarked radar cars, which can record speeds, both from the side of the road and while moving.
“It is what they have in England and I’m sure it is one of the reasons why there are fewer road deaths there.”
Ms Perrichon said the political tension between Prime Minister Edouard Philippe and President Emmanuel Macron over the 80kph issue showed that one had done his homework and studied the reports of road safety experts and the other had not.
“When I hear the president say that in France there are some nice straight roads where you can do 90kph, I despair.
“The roads are nice and straight because they have been built to handle significant amounts of traffic. It is always the amount that determines where there are the most deadly accidents in France,” she said.
“We have to keep fighting to keep the number of people hurt and killed on the road as low as possible.”