Wed 10 Jan ‘18 01.29 GMT
Reduction on two-lane highways from 90km/h to 80km/h follows 3,500 fatalities on roads in 2016
Last modified on Wed 10 Jan ‘18 01.37 GMT
The French government said on Tuesday it would lower the speed limit on two-lane highways to 80km/h (50mph) from 90km/h, hoping to reverse an alarming rise in road deaths.
Several previous governments had toyed with the idea as a means of reducing highway deaths, which reached nearly 3,500 in 2016, but backed off in the face of widespread public opposition.
About 55% of those deaths – 1,911 victims – occurred on the 400,000km of so-called secondary roads across France, two-lane routes with no separating guardrail.
“Excessive or inappropriate” speed was involved in 32% of those fatal accidents, which far exceeded those in urban areas.
The government says the lower speed limit could save 350 to 400 lives a year.
“Unsafe roads are not inevitable,” prime minister Edouard Philippe said after a meeting of the government’s road safety council, adding that road accidents had killed 105 people in France over the recent year-end holidays.
“Lowering speeds reduces the number of accidents, as well as the severity of these accidents,” he said.
The government has compared the 80 km/h limit, which goes into effect on 1 July, to the laws enacted since 1973 requiring the use of seat belts, and the installation of automatic speed radars in 2002. Those laws also drew the ire of thousands of drivers, but contributed to nearly four decades of declines in automobile deaths in France, which reached a historic low of 3,268 in 2013.