Alcohol, drugs and technology blamed as French motorway deaths rise

Fatalities on French toll motorways rose to 188 last year

View over a French motorway
The number of deaths on French toll motorways increased 43% in 2022 from 2021
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Deaths on French toll motorways increased by 43% between 2021 and 2022, according to newly released figures.

France’s association of motorway companies, l’Association des sociétés françaises d’autoroute (ASFA), reported that 188 people lost their lives last year, compared with the previous 12 months, when there were 131.

Even if the Covid period is discounted and 2019 reviewed it is a similar picture, with 154 fatalities registered.

Alcohol, drugs and medicines

ASFA state that 1,654 accidents took place on toll motorways last year. Alcohol, drugs and medicines were involved in 26.3% of fatal accidents.

“The role alcohol, drugs and medicines play in accidents is increasing significantly… some users are openly taking more risks. This results in more victims, these types of behaviour are unacceptable,” said ASFA head Christophe Boutin.

Read more: Two-in-five young people admit to throwing litter on French motorways

The report said although those under the age of 35 represent 17% of motorway drivers, they cause almost a third (32%) of accidents.

Fewer accidents were caused in 2022 by sleepiness and tiredness, ASFA pointed out, but 40 people were killed in 2022 in accidents involving pedestrians, double the amount in 2021.

The number of accidents caused by excessive speed has not changed (responsible for around 16% of deadly accidents) but accidents caused by inattention have increased from 15 in 2021 to 28 in 2022.

Mr Boutin noted that “it again affects young people more and with the growing sophistication of technology, we will have more and more people looking at their phone instead of the road”.

ASFA, which manages 9,180 km of toll-funded motorways in France, reported that although deaths increased in 2022, toll motorways are still the safest roads in France.

The figures tie in with another report released earlier this year, that covered all roads in France.

It said all motorway deaths (not just toll motorways) had increased by 12%, from 263 people in 2019 to 294 last year.

Overall, 3,267 people died on French roads last year, up 0.7% compared to 2019
Read more: Road accidents in France: Five key trends from new report

British woman, 40, dies on French motorway

The report comes a few days after a 40-year-old British woman, believed to be on holiday with her family, died in a car crash on the A26 motorway in Pas-de-Calais.

The crash happened around 18:00 on Sunday (July 30) on the motorway in the Calais direction when three vehicles collided: a UK-registered minivan carrying a British family of seven and two cars each carrying four people.

Read more: French motorway deaths: woman, 40 ‘probably on family holiday from UK’

Driving advice

Following the accident, the Pas-de-Calais prefecture issued general safety advice for people driving on holiday this summer:

  • Prepare your vehicle: check the condition and pressure of the tyres on your car, caravan or trailer, secure your luggage on the roof racks or in the trailers, watch out for overloading and top up the oil, brake fluid, coolant and windscreen washer fluid levels

  • Find out about traffic conditions and the weather forecast for the entire journey

  • Avoid getting drowsy at the wheel: be well-rested before setting off, stop regularly, take plenty of water, do not fight fatigue, and take a break every two hours

  • Stay focused on driving: programme your GPS before setting off and do not use it while driving as it can distract you just as much as typing or reading a text message.

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