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Wednesday, 25 May 2011

French government's speed camera policy mess

The French government has got itself into a right pickle over its decision to remove road signs warning motorists they were entering an area monitored by speed cameras or radar.

The interior minister - the seemingly omnipresent Claude Guéant - announced earlier this month that the signs would be disappearing from French roads and motorways.

It was part of the government's reaction to the increase in the number of deaths in road accidents in April - a jump of almost 20 per cent over the same month last year.

There were grumblings within the governing Union pour un Mouvement Populaire (Union for a popular movement, UMP) from parliamentarians that they hadn't been consulted, and from organisations representing motorists such as 40 millions d'automobilistes which insisted that the signs had "an instructive role as they informed drivers they were entering a dangerous area and would certainly be fined if they didn't watch their speed."

But Guéant persisted. The signs would disappear, "The decision was final and there would be no going back."

He was supported up by the French president, Nicolas Sarkozy, who perhaps seeing a simple chance to appeal to the electorate (not that he's in campaigning mode of course and after all who can turn round and say they're in favour of road deaths increasing?) insisted that he would not "allow a rise in the number of deaths caused by road accidents" and the measure was one he would "absolutely not give up on."

Even the prime minister François Fillon, usually so savvy in assessing the strength of public opinion, threw his hat into the ring to support the decision.

That favourite of French pastimes, "polemic" then went into overdrive with some members of the governing UMP arguing that they fully supported the government's decision while others were less than happy as the first signs were removed last week.

So unhappy in fact that a group of 73 of them wrote to Fillon to express the anger and frustration felt by "millions of electors".

Oh yes - France is in a pre-election year, both presidential and parliamentarian, just in case you hadn't realised).

"We share your ambition to treat road safety issues seriously but we're disappointed by the complete lack of consultation there has been," they wrote.

"In addition we believe that there are other more urgent measures that could be taken to improve road safety that wouldn't be so unpopular."

Did you see that? "Wouldn't be so unpopular."

Pre-election year remember.

Speed camera (from Wikipedia)

On Tuesday the government announced that it was stopping the process of doing away with road signs indicating speed radar.

Or rather it sort of made that announcement.

Or rather it didn't make that announcement at all.

You can judge for yourself from the somewhat confusing explanation Guéant gave viewers during an interview on France 2's prime time evening news.

"There's no change in policy," he insisted.

"Road safety remains a priority."

All right so far. But then it gets complicated.

"I confirm that the signs indicating the presence of a radar will be removed," he continued.


"They'll be replaced by signs indicating the speed at which a motorist is driving."


"But these new signs won't necessarily be in exactly the same place as the previous signs telling drivers they were entering an area monitored by radar."


"There'll always be a new sign (indicating speed) at some distance near to where there's a fixed camera but there'll also be the same sign at points where there's no radar.

It'll be up to local authorities to decide where exactly they will be. "


Apparently the very existence of those new signs, which only "sometimes" indicate the presence of a radar isn't backtracking of any sort.

But somehow the government has managed to ties itself into knots and come up with an inspired policy that was already in place - well more or less.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

So much confusion, yet the presidential election is still far away:I wonder what new blunders we're going to have in the next few months.

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