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If you’ve driven or are driving in France, this news won’t come as a shock. A just-published study done for the French insurance company AXA ranks the French among the worst drivers in all of Europe. Or at the very least, they have the least respect for traffic regulations. All is fair in love, war and on the road.
The survey found that while 31 percent of the drivers in the ten European countries polled failed to signal their intention to turn or change lanes, 47 percent of French drivers failed to do so.
Another 47 percent of the French exceeded city speed limits, compared to 41 percent for European drivers. Only the Portuguese, who scored a whopping 59 percent, outdid the French.
The AXA study states the French, like two thirds of European drivers, often race through orange traffic warning signals instead of slowing down. However, the French received extra bad marks because they were more likely to speed up, rather than slow down, when spotting an orange light.
According to the AXA study, 27 percent of French drivers, compared to 21 percent of the Europeans surveyed, were likely to get behind the wheel after drinking too much liquor. To their credit, this falls short of the 40 percent figure attributed to Luxembourg drivers.
According to the AXA study, the British and the Irish are the most sober drivers.
One of the few areas where AXA found the French to be among the safest EU drivers was on the nation’s extensive system of autoroutes. Not surprisingly, that’s where the installation of radar controls has steadily increased.
These fixed or mobile radar cameras flash at the license plates of cars that exceed speed limits. French police using mobile cameras generate a hefty income for the French government. In 2007, for instance, radar fines amounted to 453 million Euros (nearly 670 million dollars).
Still, French drivers have been highly inventive in their efforts to avoid radar flashes. Some have taken to painting their license plates with reflective lacquer that bounces the radar flash back to its source and makes it impossible to discern the license plate number. Each year some people resort to going out at night and smashing the fixed radar station cameras.
Others, aware of where the fixed radars are located, have learned to make sure they slow down as they pass the cameras, but then they quickly speed up. That’s why French police are instituting a new system of radar controls, which flash cars once and then again at some considerable distance farther on. The camera’s computer calculates if the distance traveled between the two registrations indicates a violation of speed limits. In that case, a highly computerized system sends a traffic ticket to the car-owner’s home.
If you’re driving in France these days it would be worthwhile to keep all that in mind. In addition to making your driving safer (nearly 5,000 people are killed each year on French highways), it might also save you some money. Have you had any brushes with the police when driving?
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