Speed limits in France: what have they changed to?

Speed limits in France: what have they changed to?
The speed limit on many A and B roads in France will be reduced to 80km/h (50mph) – in a bid to save up to 400 lives a year.

Coming into effect from July 1, the reduction from 90km/h (56mph) will affect around 400,000km of departmental roads across the country and comes in response to an alarming rise in road deaths.

The RAC says British drivers will need to get used to driving slower on two-lane highways than they would at home, even though visitors are likely to mainly use bigger, faster roads during their stay.

The speed limit reductions, announced by French government road safety group, La Comité interministériel de sécurité routière, will apply to roads without a central reservation ‘separator’, like a rail or barrier, between carriageways.

Why did French speed limits change?

Such roads have been targeted after figures showed as many as two-thirds of road fatalities occur on those with the 90 km/h limits.

In 2016, almost 3,500 people were killed on French highways – with 70,000 injuries.

The changes are to be accompanied by tougher penalties for drivers caught using a mobile phone behind the wheel, which could now lead to a driving ban.

British drivers heading to France are also advised that driving without a ‘clean air’ sticker, known as a Crit’Air vignette – which costs as little as £3.70 – makes them culpable for an on-the-spot fine of up to £117.

RAC European driving spokesman Simon Williams reiterated that the number of deaths on French roads has increased for three successive years – and are almost double the number recorded in the UK.

“It is clear that action needed to be taken to save lives,” he said. “How effective this will be very much depends on the level of compliance from motorists and, naturally, the level of police enforcement.”

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The decision from PM Edouard Philippe has split opinion in France, with certain motoring groups labelling the measure an attack on drivers’ rights and a means to raise additional money through fines.

But Mr Philippe stood by his end goal, claiming: “If saving lives means being unpopular then I accept that”.

The RAC’s Mr Williams added: “While the decision will not be popular with French motorists, we know from experience in the UK that those roads are responsible for far more deaths than motorways and dual carriageways.

"We also know that speed is one of the biggest contributory factors in injury accidents.

“British drivers visiting France making longer journeys are unlikely to experience too much impact as the majority of those miles will probably be driven on bigger, faster roads.

"British drivers will, however, clearly have to get used to driving 10mph slower on A and B roads than they would at home otherwise their visits may prove expensive.”

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