Thursday, April 26, 2007

Road Kill

I am taking antibiotics, and so is Ulysse. He is back after spending 3 days in the vet's clinic having been hit by a car. His jaw was split in two and he had to undergo an emergency operation to wire it back together.

What with X-rays, the operation, care and medicine he's just become a very expensive cat, and hopefully he'll take to looking both ways before he crosses the road.

Mind you, if you read Bernard Durand's book 'Il était une joie', you'll realise that it's not necessarily the pedestrians or scooter riders who should be looking both ways, but those selfish drivers who believe the road belongs to them and them alone. The month Bernard's son was killed, or assassinated as he puts it, there was a total 41 deaths on the road in Hérault. That was August 2001. Next door in the Pyrenees Orientales, there were just 4, yet it's a similar region with lots of tourists at that time of year.

Forty-one grieving families in just one month. That year in France there were 7720 deaths on the road, and this figure finally came down to less than 5000 only in 2005.

France is a country of individualists. They are proud to be so, but this individualism translates into selfish egotism on the road. Since the introduction of radars, driver behaviour has been modified with regard to speed. There are 1200 radars on the roads of France, and last year a total of 8 million points were docked from driving licences. I read today in 'Herault' magazine that the Region charges the State 10,000€ rent on each radar, legally. No wonder they are finely tuned!

Speed is only one factor; alcohol is another, equally lethal. In the UK, police would wait outside pubs and clubs and test everyone getting into a car. I've never seen such a policy here in France. Maybe the police are controlling more, but if they are, they are being very discreet about it. The Government is trying to encourage the Designated Driver system, the "capitaine de soirée" among groups of young people. Considering that they represent over 27% of road deaths, it's about time that the Government addressed this section of the population.

I don't understand why France has been so tardy in tackling road deaths. Personal freedoms are all very well, but when they interfere with the freedoms of others (such as the freedom to live), a sensible approach has to be taken even if it seems to insult most of the population.

Vehicles are dangerous and should be treated with precaution, by sober, sedate drivers. Boring maybe, but if Jérémie Durand's killer had been sober and sedate, Jérémie would now be 23.


  1. This might not be very politically correct to say, but I think the wine lobbyists put a lot of pressure on the government. Wine consumption is already done, and if the police start doing more and more drunk driving controls, it will fall even more. You should have heard the stink they put up when many companies forbid their travelling salesmen to drink during lunch!

    Also, like you said, it's combined with the idea of individualism, ie. "I can drink and drive if I want to, who's the government to tell me what to do?"

  2. > Speed is only one factor; alcohol is another

    Yes. Then there are those wretched plane trees that Napoloen allegedly had planted every 10 metres along both sides of every highway in Frnace, to provide shade for his marching troops. When troops aren't marching, cars are getting wrapped around those trees.....

  3. Blaming an inanimate tree for an accident is somewhat bizarre. Moving cars just have to stay on the road, being driven sensibly.

    It's not like trees suddenly dash out onto the road and catch you unawares. Drivers who have been pushing alchol limits cannot really blame trees for their woes.

  4. Sarah, I think it depends on the region. I think alcohol controls have been stepped up around Paris and certain parts of Brittany as well as in the east. A sales manager student of mine told me that the young salesmen he sees, drink water with their lunch (rather than apero + wine!) - habits are changing in the younger generations

  5. Sam, if that is the case then those wine lobbyists can be considered party to manslaughter and should be dragged through the courts, not allowed to kick up any kind of stink. It makes me feel quite sick, and such behaviour is a total disgrace to this country.
    If that isn't rapacious pursuit of commercial interests I don't know what is!


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