Saturday, January 27, 2007

Slow Down, You Move Too Fast...

One well known fact about France, apart from the great food and wine, is that to drive in France is to take your life in your hands and that there are days when staying home is definitely the safer option.

I passed my driving test two weeks before leaving Britain and so the mayhem here was something I quickly became used to. H. however never really got to grips with finding either oncoming traffic taking short cuts by borrowing his side of the road or drivers aggressively tailgating him. And then there were the roads themselves: narrow and winding with the camber often carrying you in the wrong direction and the surface dissolving in showers of rain thus wrecking your tyres.

Jacques Chirac resolved to fix the problem and deaths from traffic accidents have gone down since the initiative has passed down to local government. .
Above is one of the ways to curb excessive speed which has caused a lot of chatter round here. It warns drivers very clearly about the presence of a speed camera. Neither the warning or the camera which has violent yellow and black stripes is missable or, if you do miss them you should consider having your eyes checked.

There are two of these babies on roads that I regularly use and they are both situated before accident black spots. The local Conseil Generale is on record as saying that he's in the business of preventing accidents rather than merely punishing offenders though many people find this difficult to understand and claim that the cameras are there to make money. I don't quite follow the reasoning as it seems clear that if you break the rules, you pay the price and no one is actually forcing you to break the speed limit. In any event the number of road deaths has decreased so something's working.
It just goes to prove that when you hit someone in the wallet, their hearts and minds will follow!
How does it work in other parts of France or even the world?


tut-tut said...

We're seeing these traffic cameras in the U.S., too, though they're mostly to catch red-light runners.

Jane Poe (aka Deborah) said...

Hello Angela,

When FP & I went to France we were glad NOT to be driving!! It was very intimidating. The camera's are a good idea - we're starting to use them in this part of the US as well. It is funny the mindset of people who find it "unfair." If you are not breaking the traffic laws, you have nothing to worry about. And, like seatbelts, if it keeps people safer, reduces injury or fatalities, I'm all for it. JP

ColinB said...

Personally I dislike having to keep taking my eyes off the road to check the speedo. Doing so is unsafe, especially in busy areas.

So why don't modern cars have a beeper or something to warn that one's getting close to the speed limit? It could be activated by a radio beam, from a roadside beacon, so that it would beep at the appropriate speed limit.

But then the Chancellor wouldn't get his greedy mitts on all those lovely revenues, would he?

Open Grove Claudia said...

We have those traffic cameras here in Denver, but they move from location to location. They did a big study here to decrease traffic accidents and lowered all speed limits, allowed parking along streets so that they are now 1 lane instead of two, and they shortened the traffic lights. It's supposed to work but mostly you have people speeding, running lights, and hitting parked cars.

Spending money on a good public transportation system... Yeah, that hasn't happened yet.

ColinB said...

Perhaps I might ask a question of the American contributors here. It's years since I've been in the States, and never drove while I was there. Am I right in thinking that drivers Stateside tend to choose a lane and stay in it - slowest on the right, fastest on the left ?

In Britain, there's a lot of criticism of people who are said to "hog the middle lane". Personally, I've never objected to them, often being one myself, provided one drives at a reasonable speed, close to the legal maximum. Why keep changing lane the whole time, and risk getting boxed in between HGVs (trucks) in the slow lane etc ?

Run Around Paris said...

To be honest, I don't think I could ever get used to driving in Paris - I don't know what it's like in other parts of France, but Parisian driving is just too crazy for me. ;)

sarala said...

I wouldn't want to drive in Paris. Thank heaven the metro is so convenient. Buses too.
I remember on the French highways there were these signs with black figures on them that we were told were to signify traffic deaths. They definitely creeped me out.

Gigi said...

Driving back to Gatwick airport yesterday morning, it seemed to me that we were going past quite a few cameras...

Their presence in France is clearly marked on itineraries provided by, for example - although as I tend to get hopelessly lost if I use mappy routes, it doesn't really matter...:-)

Shaz said...

There are cameras in all the major cities in Australia as JP said if your doing the right thing then there is no worries hey!!

angela said...

thanks for sharing your experiences. it seems speed is an issue everywhere though H. loves driving in the States because he thinks it's safer.
In the UK there are cameras absolutely everywhere and thus I believe it's the safest place to drive in Europe. Stringent drink driving rules help too.
Have a nice day everyone!

ColinB said...

Maybe H could answer my question.
Is there less chopping and changing between lanes ?

angela said...

I asked him, Colin, and he said that people tended to remain in their lanes but, then, speed limits are lower there so maybe everyone goes roughly the same speed.

ColinB said...

Thanks H, and your good self Angela, for answering that. I'd certainly got the impression from films etc of a more orderly flow of traffic.

Yes, your point about the lower speed limit would probably explain it.

Loui said...

As someone who has recently gained 3 points on her license due to driving at 34 in a 30mph zone I have to put my hands up and say yes I did do it and now have to attend a "speed awareness course" and pay up the £60 fine. I am also now driving like Miss Daisy and am not enjoying driving everywhere doing at least 3mph under the limit for fear of getting caught again!

Driving in France is certainly an experience I always try to avoid if I can!

J x

ColinB said...

You shouldn't have to attend a speed awareness course, Loui. It's one thing for a static bit of electronics by the roadside to determine you were doing 34mph, but quite another for a motorist who's eyes were probably on the road, looking for hazards.

As indicated above, why are cars not fitted with systems that monitor speed with a warning system ? Or a "head up" display that tells you your speed without having to take eyes off the road ?

Only Tony Blair and his fellow bunch of chauffered phonies could have thought up something as condescendingly PC and demeaning as a "Speed Awareness Courses". It's just control freakery gone mad. I'm so glad to have got out of the Nanny State when I did.

meredith said...

I don't live very far from you, so it's the same. In Aix-en-Provence, crazy drivers know where the radars are and only slow down just in front of them before they resume their crazy speed.

Loui said...

How I agree with you colinb!!!
Think of me tomorrow afternoon listening how not to speed. *rolleyes*

J x