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Time to Follow French Lead on Road Safety

France’s commitment to reducing the numbers of deaths on its roads has been applauded by a leading UK road safety expert who says the UK could learn lessons from the French by having clear targets and high profile initiatives.

Graham Hurdle, managing director of fleet risk management specialists E-Training World, believes the UK Government has lost its way with road safety - scrapping targets, reducing the money available, and burying it at the bottom of the political agenda.

From Spring this year motorists in France will need to carry disposable breathalysers to reduce the annual number of deaths below 3,000. France has made huge gains in road safety over the last ten years, with the number of deaths being cut by half.

“In our country the Government has scrapped its road death targets which is a move I wholeheartedly disagree with” said Hurdle. “And whilst I have some reservations about how successful the French breathalyzer scheme will be, at least it demonstrates to drivers in France that road safety is being taken very seriously.

French President Nicholas Sarkozy announced the measure, to allow drivers to check they are under the legal drink-drive limit, as part of a road safety drive. It will be made compulsory by law from this spring, along with existing rules meaning drivers must carry a warning triangle and display stickers showing which country their vehicle is from. Drivers caught without a breathalyser in their car will face a €17 fine.

“I believe the drivers who use the kits to check if they are over the limit would not drink and drive anyway,” continued Hurdle, “although it might act as a deterrent to those who believe they are borderline and find they are over the limit.

“But the drivers who willingly flout the law and drive while drunk will not be put off by the breathalyzer, nor do I believe they will use it. I also have some serious concerns that it may encourage people to try and drink up to the limit and then drive which is a very negative aspect of this approach.

“However the good news is it will remind all drivers in France of the dangers of drinking and driving which is more than the UK government is doing.

“There was no major drink driving campaign this Christmas in the UK and in many areas drink driving arrests increased in December 2011 compared to 2010.”