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France to ban headphones in cars after road deaths spike

Using headphones while driving will be banned
Using headphones while driving will be banned Audio-Technica via Flickr

France is set to introduce a raft of road safety measures, including a ban on making mobile phone calls with headphones while driving, following the first rise in the number of traffic accidents in more than ten years.

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The number of deaths on French roads rose by 3.7 percent – to a total of 3,388 people – in 2014, according to figures released by the Interior Ministry on Monday.

This is 120 more than in 2013, a year that was heralded for having the least people killed in car accidents since 1948.

The grim statistics for 2014 include 503 pedestrians (a rise of 8 percent) and 158 cyclists (up 7 percent).

Deaths on French roads have been in almost constant decline (except for a small reversal in 2001) since 1978, when some 18,000 people were victims of traffic accidents.

This latest reversal in France’s road safety fortunes has galvanised the authorities, who remain determined to reach the target of less than 2,000 deaths per year.

Among 26 new measures to be introduced immediately are:

  • A ban on mobile phone headsets

Headphones connected to mobile phones will no longer be legal for making calls while at the wheel, although wireless Bluetooth devices remain permitted.

New rules to “maintain drivers’ concentration” also include a ban on parking within five metres of a pedestrian crossing.

  • Reduced alcohol limits for the youngest drivers

The legal alcohol limit for new drivers (holding a provisional license or having passed their test within less than three years) will be reduced from 0.5 grams per litre to 0.2 grams per litre, corresponding to one glass of wine or beer.

This measure is particularly aimed at the 18-24 age group, in which alcohol was responsible for a quarter of deaths between 2011 and 2013.

  • New speed limits and more roadside cameras

The number of cameras at traffic lights will be increased, and while there is no plan to place more speed cameras, the existing ones will be made “bi-directional”, meaning they can take pictures of speeding vehicles in both directions.

The authorities also plan to reduce the speed limit on single-lane minor roads from the current 90km/h to 80km/h.

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