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Intervention dans le Times Magazine

Publié le 28 février 2004


  Remy JOSSEAUME, a lawyer who defends drivers, is appealing to the Council of State, the highest legal authority, on the ground that a 1978 law prohibits the use of purely automated data for "assessing human behaviour" in a judicial decision .

Attempts over the past 18 months to persuade the French to drive more carefully are showing results. Fiercer enforcement of the highway code and anti-drink laws has reduced the death toll by more than 10 per cent so far. The aim is to halve annual death rate ? about 8,000 in 2001 ? which is Europe?s highest.

A campaign to foster the notion that drivers commit "highway violence" rather than falling victim to "accidents" is weaning France away from its tolerance of brutal habits and the attendant carnage.

Attending the funeral yesterday of a gendarme who had been killed by a drunk driver, M Sarkozy said: "The highway network must no longer be favoured for this most serious form of criminality."











Speed traps provoke the French to fury

The country's first automated speed traps have been attacked with bullets, paint and a sledgehammer in the ten days since thirty of the devices were installed as part of President Chirac?s campaign to curb France?s lethal driving habits.

Adding to citizens' anger over the crackdown, a motoring magazine said yesterday that it had clocked the car of Nicolas Sarkozy, the Interior Minister, driving nearly 20mph above the speed limit as his car took him to inaugurate the first of the new speed cameras, in the Essonne, south of Paris.

That camera, on Route Nationale 20, was smashed by a sledghammer within hours of his visit on October 27.

While Britain and many other countries adopted speed cameras long ago, the automated approach was resisted in France as alien and a breach of privacy. Earlier police- controlled speed cameras were modified a decade ago after their photographs showed the occupants of passenger seats, sometimes exposing infidelity to drivers? partners.

Urged on by lawyers, motoring campaigners are fighting a rearguard action over the legality of the new traps, which some claim to be a breach of the European Convention on Human Rights.

After the first £60,000 unit was smashed in the Essonne, paint blacked out another radar automatique on the A6 motorway in the same area. In eastern France, guns have been used against a motorway speed camera and two other television cameras that apparently were mistaken for them.

The authorities, who are counting on the cameras to apply a psychological jolt, have promised to track down and punish the culprits and to keep the cameras in operation whatever the cost.

As well as being defended by closed-circuit television, the cameras may be moved to motorway bridges. A further 1,000 fixed and mobile units are to be installed over the next two years.

So far, the first batch of cameras, which are identified in advance by road signs, have proved salutory. More than 2,000 fines a day are being sent to car owners, most of them for the basic $90 (£62) penalty, plus one point off the 12-point driving licence.

The automatic nature of the fines is a novelty because of the old Gallic practice of exonerating the influential and the friends and family of police issued with speeding tickets.

However, the absence of human intervention is being used to mount a legal challenge.

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