Thursday, May 24, 2007
French Particularities No. 13: Presidential Amnesty
One French particularity which it seems to me is particularly French, is the fact that, when a new president gets into office, it is widely expected that he (or she, ho hum) will give an amnesty to all automobile offences that are in the pipeline for prosecution.
French drivers are a pretty dangerous bunch in general. It is something I have written about at length here. Many drivers do not seem to want to admit to themselves the real function of a zebra crossing. 87% of pedestrians in France say they have often or sometimes difficulty crossing the road.
Only yesterday, my wife was about to cross a zebra just outside my daughter's school when a car went sailing past right in front of them. Furious, my wife slammed her bag against the back of the car, realising shortly afterwards, when the car pulled up, that it was none other than a mother of another child at the school. When my wife confronted her she explained her action by saying: "I thought you were talking to your child." My wife riposted: "Yes, I was telling her how to cross the road safely." Which was no lie.
20 Minutes magazine this morning stated that: "there has been an almost constant increase in the number of deaths on the roads in France since December 2006." The number of deaths are up 8%, the number of injured by almost 14% and the total number of accidents by 10%.
Pierre Gustin, Délégué général de la Prévention routière, says: "these very upsetting statistics are above all due to the relaxation and loss of vigilance shown by drivers in the light of a possible amnesty. We are for the complete abolition of this amnesty. It is a medieval system that is completely unsupportable. France is the only country in Europe where this still exists."
In fact, Nicolas Sarkozy was very clear during his presidential campaign, saying: "there will be no question of an amnesty for traffic infringements". Today, the Elysée Palace confirmed to 20 Minutes: "Not even an amnesty for parking infringements."
This then, is one more break with the past. In 2002, Jacques Chirac gave an amnesty to all non-endangering parking offences.
It has also been announced that the panels which forewarn the position of speeding cameras (a development of only the last few years in France) are going to be removed. Thousands of taxi drivers all over France are going to go into immediate bankruptcy.
This is all good news. And what is also good news is that since 2002, when a major effort was launched to improve French road safety, the number of road deaths have decreased by 43% overall.