By on May 17, 2011

Today’s sign of the times comes courtesy of the world of social media, and calls into question some of our most basic assumptions about the world of cars. France, it seems, experienced a 12.8% increase in on-road fatalities in the first quarter of this year, and the New York Times reports that the French government is responding by banning devices that scan the road ahead for speed camera radar waves.

A decade ago, the death rate on French roads was among the worst in Europe, and the government reacted in 2002 with what some drivers called repressive tactics. Radar cameras were erected at intersections throughout the country, which captured a motorist’s license plate if the car surpassed the speed limit by more than 5 kilometers an hour (3 m.p.h.), deducted points off a motorist’s license and sent a fine through the mail.

The measures were deemed successful. The International Transport Forum said France achieved a reduction of 47 percent in its road-death toll in the first decade of the century, relative to the 1990s. The ministerial report said the average speed in France also dropped 10 kilometers an hour since 2002, or 11.7 percent.

The radar cameras, however, spawned a thriving market in radar-warning devices. According to AFFTAC, 5.1 million drivers in France use them. Under the new law, users would face fines of up to 1,500 euros, or about $2,100.

The French government’s decision to not only ban radar detectors, but also to remove signs warning motorists of fixed radar cameras has generated some serious backlash. Apparently over 80,000 people “liked” the Facebook page of AFFTAC, a group opposing the measures and calling for nationwide protests, over the course of two days. By comparison, the most optimistic count of hand-raisers for a possible future Chevy El Camino is “possibly as high as 18,000 people.” Call us crazy, but we thought America’s oft-cited “love affair with the automobile” would have created some slightly different results.

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7 Comments on “Does France Hate Speed Cameras More Than America Loves The El Camino?...”

  • avatar

    Well, it’s a love affair with THE automobile, not with AN automobile.

    Apples and oranges.

    If you want a direct comparison, let’s see how riled up Americans get over new, nationwide, bans on transportation devices that could not possibly be responsible for the massive year-over-year increase in reported (emphasis on “reported”) on-road fatalities.

    With what we have seen from Ray LaHood, NHTSA, CARB, EPA, and the POTUS, we won’t have to wait long.

    Of course, the French will still have an advantage, because the only thing they love more than driving their odd little cars is gathering at dusk and flipping and burning their odd little cars.

  • avatar

    If you havent driven a french car you have no concept of what your missing for comfort and brilliant roadholding they cant be beaten and of course mine has a radar detector in it as its very hard to stay under our repressinve speed limit

    • 0 avatar

      Their comfort and roadholding is nothing special for European average. While their engineering approach (especially in more recent times) is a true insult to the intelligence of any thinking mechanic.
      Wires that are not color-coded, weirdest parts nomenclature or unaccessible components – to name but few.

      Quality is pretty poor as well.

  • avatar

    Actually the ban isn’t against radar-detectors in the classic sense, because those radar detectors have been illegal here for a while. What they are trying to ban are the radar warning systems that operate on GPS and 3G wireless communications. There are several systems sold that warn when a fixed radar is coming and feeds continuous traffic information from other users. They’re a sort of vehicular social-network, and that’s what the government is trying to ban. AFFTAC was created by three major companies that sell these systems. They have a financial interest.

    But, it can reasonably be argued that this is a free speech issue. The govt. is basically saying you can’t download an app on your iphone or other device that will allow you to communicate road conditions. I don’t know how they will enforce this. Cars will have extensive communications and computational integration in the future. When you get pulled over, will they have the right to seize your car’s hard-drive?

  • avatar

    The social nuisance- I mean network- known as facebook is also responsible for naming the Mustang V6 performance package the “Mayhem” package. Ugh.

    They can try to ban these but if they are indeed programs, rather than a traditional radar detector, they can forget about being able to enforce it. I recently jailbroke my iphone and it’s a perfect example of getting around the manufacturer’s intended use of the device.

  • avatar

    As previously stated by virages, some points of this note need to be corrected. First of all, radar detectors in the traditional US sense (radar or laser waves detectors) are banned in France for as long as I can remember, with a law that is both severe and severely enforced. As a result they are marginal in the drivers’ landscape.
    But the consequence is that we were among the first to see the potential offered by the combination of GPS data, 3G networks and real-time information by users, and we had the first company developing it, called Coyote, born 2005.
    It should be noted that one of France’s neighbours, Switzerland, has even banned GPS devices able to connect to a fixed radars database, including of course the most efficient ones using 3G. This law is of course unenforced as radars are just POIs in these devices, but the real-time aspect is effectively prevented from working. Any way, no such thing as a mere technicality can prevent our governments (I’m French living in Switzerland, that makes two governments to deal with) from legislating and reducing our freedom of speech, which would be too greatly helped by progress in IT.

  • avatar

    > Call us crazy, but we thought America’s oft-cited “love affair with the automobile” would have created some slightly different results.

    …or have we become a nation of apathetic reactionaries?

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