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French Speed Limit Changes

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Recent reports suggest that the speed limit on French A & B roads outside towns and villages is to be reduced from 90kph (56mph) to 80kph (49mph).

The ostensible reason is to try and reduce the road death toll in France which is twice that of the UK despite having twice as much area for effectively the same population.

Obviously this will have rather a negative effect on tourists who prefer to avoid the autoroutes but who still hope to reach their destination before they grow old. It will no doubt also be a nice little earner for the authorities.

So why is the accident rate so much higher in France? Is it the practice of having a long, leisurely midday lunch helped along by the fruit of the vine?

My experience is that the further south you go, the more driving standards deteriorate. Something to do with the southern Latin temperament perhaps?

All comments welcome.

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I should first of all say that my comments relate to my experience of living in the ‘deep south’ and may well not apply elsewhere in France.

Some thoughts / observations:

  • Road deaths in this departement are already higher than in 2016, although several have been caused by collisions with wild boar
  • Alcohol is of course a factor in some accidents, but most people are pretty responsible. This idea of booze-filled lunches followed by driving is a bit of a myth IMO.
  • Strangely, motorway driving standards here are generally good and on small windy country roads, generally very iffy. All this is the very opposite of what happens in the UK. Our local roads are really quite dangerous at times.
  • There are now lots of fixed and ‘mobile’ speed cameras on main roads - easy to fall foul of.
  • I’ve never seen so many random ‘controle’ roadside checks by the gendarmerie as the last 6 months.
  • Reducing the speed limit to 80kph would be frustrating and counter-productive IMO - frustration at moderate speed leads to reckless overtaking.
  • Non-permit cars are a red herring - hardly any around here.
  • The issue is often reckless corner clipping on blind bends - I just don’t know why they do it !
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The UK motorways are the safest roads in the UK so probably therefore the safest in Europe, I would think rural roads are the most unsafe the world over due to people not knowing how to drive on them and taking stupid unnecessary risks when overtaking,maybe the French are bigger risk takers than us or more impatient?

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My experience is that over the nearly 40 years I've been driving in France standards have improved but still speed limits seem to be regarded as advisory rather than compulsory. Certainly, as in the UK, standards vary with region, with Paris predictably being the worst - worse even than London. I don't see reducing the limit as being an answer though, it will be ignored even more than the current limit.

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On 11/12/2017 at 07:34, neilcvx said:

The UK motorways are the safest roads in the UK so probably therefore the safest in Europe, I would think rural roads are the most unsafe the world over due to people not knowing how to drive on them and taking stupid unnecessary risks when overtaking,maybe the French are bigger risk takers than us or more impatient?

Apart from yesterday... I had the honour (I use the term dubiously) of being sent to Coventry at the last minute for work. The sheer idiocy of some people on the M40 in the snow was astounding. Booting up the inside lane at 90+ which had been reduced in width due to thick snow was not the brightest idea for many.

 

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27 minutes ago, Jim said:

Apart from yesterday... I had the honour (I use the term dubiously) of being sent to Coventry at the last minute for work. The sheer idiocy of some people on the M40 in the snow was astounding. Booting up the inside lane at 90+ which had been reduced in width due to thick snow was not the brightest idea for many.

 

They walk among us, I remember a similar experience coming back from Portsmouth on the M6 the rain was torrential so bad it impaired vision yet still cars darting about at ridiculous speed I actually pulled over and sat in a service station for an hour , stastics always only tell half the story I suppose.

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We have been in the UK for quite some time now visiting our daughter ill in hospital.

On Sunday, we were going to fly home to France but the flight was cancelled due to the snow. So (although an airport couldn't keep one straight stretch of tarmac open) we drove from the airport to a relative's house beyond the other side of Birmingham. We made it quite safely, but there were some completely barmy drivers, as Jim says, who were doing ridiculous speeds and also going through red lights. Quite a few of them. We have even witnessed ridiculous speeds on the hospital car park!

We live in a completely agricultural part of France with lots of country lanes. We have driven many thousands of miles in France over forty-odd years, including in Paris. I have never seen such rank dangerous driving as I have done recently in the UK. The vast majority, of course, are patient, polite and considerate, but there seems to be an increasing minority who want to do exactly what they want and to hell with everyone else.

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Yes, one of the striking things about Brittany is how quiet the roads are, even the motorways.  A sharp contrast with getting off the ship in Portsmouth or Plymouth.

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18 minutes ago, Gareth said:

Yes, one of the striking things about Brittany is how quiet the roads are, even the motorways.  A sharp contrast with getting off the ship in Portsmouth or Plymouth.

 I very rarely drive on motorways to be honest mostly  the M8 between Edinburgh and Glasgow which I avoid at peak times so it’s not too busy so it’s a shock when you hit a busy time on the M6 or M5 traveling down , nothing prepared me for driving off the ferry at Santander and the  bedlam of cars thankfully it wasn’t for long until we got on a near empty pay road.

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3 hours ago, Jim said:

Apart from yesterday... I had the honour (I use the term dubiously) of being sent to Coventry at the last minute for work. The sheer idiocy of some people on the M40 in the snow was astounding. Booting up the inside lane at 90+ which had been reduced in width due to thick snow was not the brightest idea for many.

 

I will hazard a guess : Audi Quattro or SUV drivers? 

Was in Brecon on Sunday am and overtaken on treacherous roads by idiots in SUVs with no winter equipment. One of them lost the control of his car and hit a curb hardly a few miles further.  Couldn't stop smiling when I saw his front wheel sheared off the axle. My car is fitted with winter tyres and I installed snow socks but was still struggling even with them. 

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We’re going somewhat ‘off thread’ with all of this, but no problem because it’s interesting !

Snow does occur every few years down here in the South, despite many thinking that it must be 20C+ year-round.  When it happens (and rarely more than 4-5 cms), there is complete chaos.  As we all know, relatively ‘virgin snow’ is less of a problem than the compacted stuff that has become icy.  Accordingly, you need to give it a bit of ‘wellie’ on the local roads whenever you encounter even the slightest slope. But they’re not used to it !

Just an aside on driving in the UK generally, I’m sure that, when in the UK in a French-registered car, we’re given a ‘wide berth’.  “These Frenchies don’t know what they’re doing, so I’ll steer clear”.  Suits me.

 

 

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2 hours ago, crechbleiz said:

I will hazard a guess : Audi Quattro or SUV drivers? 

Was in Brecon on Sunday am and overtaken on treacherous roads by idiots in SUVs with no winter equipment. One of them lost the control of his car and hit a curb hardly a few miles further.  Couldn't stop smiling when I saw his front wheel sheared off the axle. My car is fitted with winter tyres and I installed snow socks but was still struggling even with them. 

Some - but the worst culprit was driving a Luton van complete with tail-lift! There'd been an accident on the way up which I think was caused by someone hitting uncleared snow in the inside lane at one point in a transit like van, the end result was it appeared to have skidded on its side across all three lanes. Gah!

I did try out seeing how my car handled in snow in a relatively empty car park, particularly as it's the first automatic I've had... that didn't go well.

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5 hours ago, Jardinier said:

We have been in the UK for quite some time now visiting our daughter ill in hospital.

On Sunday, we were going to fly home to France but the flight was cancelled due to the snow. So (although an airport couldn't keep one straight stretch of tarmac open) we drove from the airport to a relative's house beyond the other side of Birmingham. We made it quite safely, but there were some completely barmy drivers, as Jim says, who were doing ridiculous speeds and also going through red lights. Quite a few of them. We have even witnessed ridiculous speeds on the hospital car park!

We live in a completely agricultural part of France with lots of country lanes. We have driven many thousands of miles in France over forty-odd years, including in Paris. I have never seen such rank dangerous driving as I have done recently in the UK. The vast majority, of course, are patient, polite and considerate, but there seems to be an increasing minority who want to do exactly what they want and to hell with everyone else.

I've never seen tailgating as bad as on the A84 through Normandy. I'd never had a crash until Normandy either...how can you hit a stationary vehicle surrounded by other stationary vehicles at 110kmh shunting it, drive & passenger nearly 10 metres up the road into the back of a speedboat which ends up on your bonnet, the trailer destroying the car towing it and my perfectly fine car ends up minus it rear suspension, two wheels and half the engine... Yeah it was an Audi SUV.

I loved my furby VRS.:(

There's numpties everywhere and none of us need to look too far to find them... or they find you.

 

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4 minutes ago, Jim said:

Some - but the worst culprit was driving a Luton van complete with tail-lift! There'd been an accident on the way up which I think was caused by someone hitting uncleared snow in the inside lane at one point in a transit like van, the end result was it appeared to have skidded on its side across all three lanes. Gah!

I did try out seeing how my car handled in snow in a relatively empty car park, particularly as it's the first automatic I've had... that didn't go well.

Jim, if it has it, turn the traction control off in snow also if you have a dsg box drive it in manual by knocking it up into 2nd or look for the snowflake icon.

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14 hours ago, jonno said:

Jim, if it has it, turn the traction control off in snow also if you have a dsg box drive it in manual by knocking it up into 2nd or look for the snowflake icon.

Cheers - I'll try the traction control. Alas whilst it has manual it's fully electronic and more than happy to still change gear itself when it disagrees. It'll just take a bit of getting used to... I miss my old tank of a Mondeo.

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9 minutes ago, Jim said:

Cheers - I'll try the traction control. Alas whilst it has manual it's fully electronic and more than happy to still change gear itself when it disagrees. It'll just take a bit of getting used to... I miss my old tank of a Mondeo.

Sorry for going of topic but the old Vauxhall combi vans we had at Royal Mail could go just about anywhere in the snow front heavy narrow tyres then the puegot partners came and sometimes you literally couldn’t get out the yard with them .

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On 12/12/2017 at 18:20, jonno said:

I've never seen tailgating as bad as on the A84 through Normandy.

I'm sorry about the loss of your vehicle, Jonno.

But for tailgating, try the A500 around Stoke-on-Trent. The lorries there think nothing of putting the fear of God in you as they almost make your rear radar sensor light up! And today, one overtook me in heavy traffic and almost had my door mirror off. Yes, small potatoes compared your very frightening experience, I know, but it's all day, every day on that road.

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12 hours ago, Jardinier said:

I'm sorry about the loss of your vehicle, Jonno.

But for tailgating, try the A500 around Stoke-on-Trent. The lorries there think nothing of putting the fear of God in you as they almost make your rear radar sensor light up! And today, one overtook me in heavy traffic and almost had my door mirror off. Yes, small potatoes compared your very frightening experience, I know, but it's all day, every day on that road.

I know both directions around the A500 and enjoyed the fun at both M6 junctions not to mention the rush heading from Uttoxeter. I'm comfortable with our UK traffic loads having spent over 30 years driving around all of our major towns and cities plus the courses done when I was in the TA. That's probably Why France stands out more for me, it's only these past 5 years that I've experienced French traffic on a grander scale rather than during a singular annual holiday, we spend a lot of time there in the van now so hopefully I'm steadily learning the idiosyncrasies.

Your observation about the HGV's in the UK is interesting. Their limits were increased in 2015 by 10 mph. I have similar restriction here in the motorhome although not on the French roads.

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9 hours ago, jonno said:

Your observation about the HGV's in the UK is interesting

This was really intended to refer to the A500 rather than to cover the UK as a whole, though I imagine the same applies on any busy urban dual carriageway. I haven't had the same problems on motorways as usually one can accelerate clear away from the monsters!

I tend to regard France as an ideal destination for motorhome owners, with its wide distribution of free overnight "haltes camping-car". When we were caravan owners, I was quite envious of this provision.

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It’s not just France which has bad drivers. I drive for work vehicles limited to 56mph and 1000-1500 miles a week, my speed limit is 50mph on single carriageways. The places people overtake me is deeply concerning and scary, and tailgating to the extent they disappear from my mirrors! The thing is though most of the time I catch them up later in traffic or junctions so nothing gained by their dangerous overtake.

lack of police patrols I guess means they can fairly safely get away with it.

 

Edited by richwarwicker

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The French government announced this afternoon that they will indeed be lowering the speed limit to 80 kmph on 400,000 km of A and B roads. They have denied there will be any financial advantage after the change and that it's purely to reduce the number of deaths. The change will come into force on 1st July this year. There is also new legislation whereby the use of a mobile phone at the wheel will lead to a driver losing their licence. The details of whether GPS apps on phones fixed to the windscreen are covered by this legislation is not yet clear from what I've read. Ed

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The changes in the speed limits on secondary roads without central separation has provoked much debate in France, giving rise in some quarters to doubts over whether it would really happen. (Compare with the breath test law). But the changes referred to by Ed in the preceding post have once again been confirmed by the government. 80km/h from 1 July. Wonder if our satnav devices will be updated promptly.

Apparently, the effectiveness of this new measure will be evaluated in 2020.

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