Thousands of British motorists will be packing cars, caravans and trailers this week, ready to take the half term holiday in France – the UK’s top touring destination. But, while they can expect the highest safety engineering standards in Europe on the autoroutes, the safety of other popular French touring roads is far lower. British motorists face risk levels in France last seen on roads at home 15 years ago, according to a report launched today, commissioned by a consortium of European touring clubs and safety charities.
How safe are you on French roads? reports on an inspection of 4,300km of popular tourist roads in France. The inspection and assessment was undertaken in line with the safety rating being adopted worldwide and pioneered by the European Road Assessment Programme (EuroRAP). The star rating assesses the risk of the most common causes of death on the road - collisions at junctions, running off the road, or hitting oncoming traffic.
France is a major motoring destination for 20 million northern Europeans annually and 90% of the French take their holidays at home.
• In the last decade, 60,000 people have lost their lives on French roads
• France is the UK’s biggest road-touring holiday destination
• Death rates on France’s roads today are more than 50% greater than in Britain and are at levels last seen in Britain 15 years ago
• Alcohol plays a major part in deaths on French road: in 80% of drink-drive related crashes the driver was more than twice the blood-alcohol limit
The EuroRAP assessments covered three typical tourist journeys types in and through France:
“Get me to the sun” tracked 1400km of roads commonly used by British tourists. This research found that 97% of roads scored 4 or more stars for safety compared with 50% of the motorway network in the UK.
Commenting on the results, Dr Joanne Hill, Director of the Road Safety Foundation praises the standards of autoroutes: “While the entire network has not been inspected, we have covered a large sample. The results are the most consistently good we have yet seen for motorways anywhere in Europe. French autoroutes do not have some of the ingrained flaws in standards of run-off protection that we see in Britain. The French safety record speaks for itself: autoroutes carry nearly a quarter of all traffic in France, but see just 6% of all road deaths, and British drivers can revel in safer roads, lighter traffic and fewer junctions.”
“My Touring Holiday” inspection covered 1500km of roads which are popular among tourists driving through Paris, Orleans, chateau country, Blois, Poitiers, Dordogne, and the Atlantic coast. Here, routes varied considerably. On single carriageways, nearly 70% scored one or two stars, and overall in this assessment, 49% of roads scored one or two stars.
“My Stay in Provence” inspected 1400km around the popular, picturesque routes recommended by tour guides, including many mountain roads with limited safe overtaking opportunities, and environmental constraints on safety engineering. Although dual carriageway sections rated high scores, they represented only 185km. Overall, more than half of all roads in this assessment rated one or two stars.
“France is doing a great deal to tackle road casualties,” says Dr Jo Hill, “More than 20,000 priority junctions have been replaced with safer roundabouts. Innovative safety engineering is common, for example with natural look safety barriers in areas of outstanding beauty. French engineers are clearly trying to make roads less hazardous for motorcyclists through specially appointed ‘Monsieur Motos’ in highway departments.
“However, visitors need to be aware that 15% of France’s busier roads achieve only a one star rating and death rates per head of population are more than 50% higher than many neighbouring countries. If France is to catch up with top performing countries then the challenge is not the skills of its engineers but the size of the country. France has roughly twice the length of road that needs urgent treatment.”
She continues: “The new French traffic laws are robustly enforced and deaths are falling. But British drivers in France need to be aware of the higher risks and can take simple steps to have a relaxing, carefree holiday by leaving plenty of time and taking frequent breaks. That way, they can stay alert particularly when turning off the autoroute onto ordinary single carriageways. Above all, the golden rules apply: wear seat belts, obey the speed limits and don’t drink and drive.”