Friday, August 23, 2013

The Bizness of Road Safety

The other day I was sailing along the road in my DB's car, on a stretch that I must have done a million times and thus was lulled into thinking about other pressing matters than watching my speedometer. Pressing matters such as how to pay for a new (used) car seeing as my Alfa is basically dead, and I was going through the options. The road was not busy but I was keeping an eye on what was going on, except that I didn't register that a van with blue lights, probably bearing a mobile radar, was coming towards me - the cops!

The information eventually struggled through my thoughts on credits, savings and banks and I realised I was speeding slightly, so slowed down. Probably not enough though, so I warned my DB he could probably expect an envelope in the post (which I would of course pay!).

Funnily enough, this week too, I was sent a link to a video made by the Ligue de Défense des Conducteurs on the over-zealous use of radars by the cops. The LDC are particularly incensed at the blatant manipulation of the truth by the government which declares that the new repressive regime is all about road safety and saving lives. We are all for road safety and saving lives, but let's face it, the only way for there to be zero fatalities is to ban cars and motorbikes, so there has to be a balance.

At the heart of the new imbalance is business, money and jobs for the boys (who'd a thunk). The ethylotest (to test for alcohol) was the first main example. Manufacturers of the test lobbied the government and persuaded ministers that by making them obligatory they would show how dedicated they are to saving lives, and be able to introduce a new PV (fine) of €11 for non-possession. For their part, manufacturers were guaranteed 100% of a market of 40million drivers... Luckily there was an outcry and the law was quietly dropped, especially seeing as the test didn't even work properly!

Giddy with the prospect of other, more successful ideas, the government called upon the private sector to come up with products to fill the market, such as radars. Last year, the PV harvest brought in €1.6billion. To cope with the avalanche of envelopes, a lovely new processing centre of 11,000m² was built where operators seize 500 license plates per hour and send out around 60,000 envelopes per day.

Repression on the roads is reaching epic proportions here. In 2002 drivers lost 3million points on their license; in 2011 they lost 12 million points. About 85,000 people lost their license completely, often losing their job at the same time, and not because they are speed junkies - 95% of all speeding fines concern speeds of less than 20km/hr over the limit.

But surely, the number of deaths is going down so this must be a good thing... no? We are told that repression saves lives, but that is a gross exaggeration. What has been saving lives since the early 70s are safer cars, improvements to roads, airbags, making danger spots safe, quicker intervention by the rescue services, campaigns against drink driving, and more awareness by drivers of the dangers.

The virtuous circle of road and car improvements has led to fewer deaths on the roads
Recently, the money spent on improvements to roads, especially secondary roads, has been diverted to buying radars. This is a shame because it's on these roads that 75% of lethal accidents occur. How dedicated are politicians really to saving lives?

The truth is, repression brings in massive amounts of money. But it's not just all about speeding. The police have quotas to fill too - a certain number of PV for each type of offence: jumping a red light, parking, not stopping at a Stop sign, not wearing a seatbelt, and even 51 'refusals to comply' which means that the policeperson will have to provoke drivers to the point where they stop cooperating - definitely an important one that will save countless lives, no doubt.

If you live in France and don't agree with this 'matraquage du conducteur', the Ligue de Défense des Conducteurs has put an 8-question survey online to ask drivers what they think. They need 5million responses, so please please take a couple of minutes to fill it in here: Consultation Nationale sur la Securité Routière.

One proof that this is all about jobs for the boys was visible on Facebook today. I saw that someone had posted a picture showing a radar that had been out of service for three weeks because the company that owned it hadn't paid the electricity bill, a company whose CEO was none other than the brother of Gilles de Robien, former Minister of Transport, as it happens...

Repression for road safety my arse, basically.

10 comments:

  1. As I recall, the boss of the company making the booze testers was a friend of Sarko...under whose regime this nonsense was introduced....

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    1. Gosh, that's surprising news!!! lol

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  2. The number of traffic citations handed out by Kuwaiti police, are published in local English papers. The numbers are truly breath-taking. And if that weren't enough, the amount money collected by the Interior Ministry for traffic violations, also published in local media, is even more profound. And if think you can skip out of town without paying, don't try. They'll stop you at the airport where, you'll either pay up in full or, sit at the gate and watch your flight to London, Frankfurt, Dubai, or elsewhere taxi out to the runway.

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    1. You frequently regale us with stories on how bad the driving is in Kuwait so I'm not surprised that it's easy money raking in the dosh!

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  3. Well, Sarah, things are even worse in London. A parking ticket is about £60 whereas it is 15€ in France. There are cameras everywhere and one speed camera on Cromwell rd is known to bring £3m every year! It is not about safety, it is about money. I think tht France is lagging behind but will catch up.

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    1. They were a bit slow in realising the financial potential here, but have now caught up and are rubbing their grubby hands with glee at all the money pouring in.

      On the news over the weekend they were talking about how people are driving less because of the cost of petrol, then they went on to say how the number of deaths has gone down because of all the repression. The fact that driving less might mean fewer accidents was not mentioned...

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  4. The big road money thing here is parking. Fines are $70 brutal!!!! As there are so few police in Oakland there don't seem any on the roads to make money with speeding or DUI, typical of this area.

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    1. They're missing a trick there, and financial manna from heaven! Count yourselves lucky it's just parking tickets you have to contend with. :)

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  5. I think you're right about the reduction in deaths due to improved car safety rather than cameras etc. There's a camera near us which brings in a fortune since they reduced the maximum speed in that area, most people hadn't realised. I see people slow down now for the camera and then speed up again...how does that help?

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    1. Exactly, it's all about money now.

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