Speed cameras on French roads have been on the increase since they were introduced in 2003, nearly halving the number of driving fatalities and earning an astounding €700 million in fines. But despite the impressive numbers, not everyone is happy.
France expects to fill its coffers by a record-breaking 700 million euros in revenue from speed camera fines in 2012 - a rise that has seen a corresponding fall in road deaths since fixed “radars” were introduced in 2003.
According to the French National Agency for Automatic Offences (ANTAI), fines paid as a result of speed traps have almost doubled since 2007 (362 million euros).
Meanwhile, the National Road Safety Agency (ONISR) reported a dramatic fall in the number of deaths on French roads, from 7,655 in 2002 to 3,963 in 2011.
This drop in fatalities was and remains the primary purpose of installing the cameras, although the income generated will be welcomed by the French authorities (it costs around 200 million euros to maintain and improve the speed camera network).
This year’s record haul is a surprise, however, as improved driving on French roads saw the number of speeding offences plateau by 2010.
'Standards have slipped'
French business daily Les Echos on Friday quoted one unnamed expert as saying that “motorists’ standards had slipped somewhat” in the last 18 months and that there had been “an increase in the average speed illustrated by a 20 per cent rise in fines in the first half of 2012.”
“It could also have been affected by the presidential election,” the expert said, hinting that motorists may have hoped for an amnesty from the incoming president [Francois Hollande ousted Nicolas Sarkozy in May 2012.]
But the boost in revenues may also be the result of a significant rise in the number of cameras in recent years.
In 2008, France had 1,400 fixed cameras. There will be more than 2,200 by the end of 2012.
In addition, the country has 933 mobile radars (around the same number for the last decade) and 659 traffic light cameras, in place since 2009.
Also new are the reciprocal arrangements France has put in place with its neighbours Belgium, Luxembourg and Switzerland, whose motorists must now pay fines if caught speeding in France.
The same arrangement does not exist for Germans, who enjoy unlimited speed limits on their own autobahns and are by far the worst foreign speeding offenders on France’s motorways.
The same goes for Britain, a country that has around 6,000 speed cameras and also one of Europe's best road safety records, with less than 2,000 fatalities per year.
Populist National Front
Despite almost halving road deaths in the last decade, not everyone in France is happy about the growing number of cameras.
Leading the charge is France’s far-right National Front (FN) party, which campaigned for the 2012 presidential and legislative elections on an anti-immigration and anti-Europe ticket.
The FN’s stance on speed cameras is particularly populist. Party General Secretary Steeve Briois on Friday condemned the rise of the “nanny state” and said fixed cameras “stigmatise ordinary drivers more than real criminals.”
“This is an oppressive policy, started by [then-Interior Minister] Nicolas Sarkozy, that hides behind the pretence of being moral, yet exists simply to fill the state’s coffers,” Briois said.
Date created : 2012-08-10