Monday 22 February 2021
France is to substantially upgrade its speed camera network, as a campaign of destruction continues.
Last month, the French government announced that an additional 600 new high-performance speed cameras would be installed on the roads this year.
That will bring to 4,700 the number of speed cameras on French highways by the end of the year.
The cost of the new cameras is estimated at €58 million, but the government is also budgeting an increase in revenues from around €700 million a year to over €1 billion.
Most of the new cameras will be either those capable of flashing a particular type of vehicle, such as a lorry, or multifunctional high-level cameras capable of controlling several vehicles simultaneously and of detecting a range of different offences. The latter will eventually replace the ground-level grey box cameras that are widely used.
A great deal has been made in the press about these multi-functional turret cameras (radars tourelle). However, in response to a recent parliamentary question the government was forced to admit that, in practice, the cameras were unable currently to perform most of the functions for which they had been designed, notably spotting offences such as not wearing a seatbelt, using a phone, and driving too closely, due to inadequate video technology. The government stated that it was likely to be several years before the cameras would be fully operational.
Nevertheless, that has not stopped the cameras from becoming a particular target of vandals. Hardly a day passes when there is not a report in one or another local newspaper about a camera that has been vandalised.
The new turret cameras installed at height suffer fewer paint attacks than previous models, but their screens are broken with stones or guns, they are cut down, or simply burnt to the ground.
It is nothing like the campaign that was waged in 2018/19 as part of the gilet jaunes movement, when around 20,000 speed cameras were destroyed, but over 2,000 a year are vandalised each year. This year the government have budgeted over €300 million for the maintenance and development of the network.
In addition to static cameras, the government have increased the use of unmarked cars fitted with speed cameras.
There are around 200 of these cars in circulation, which is due to increase to around 500, driven by drivers from private companies engaged by the government.
To date they have been trialled in the regions of Brittany, Normandy, Centre-Val-de-Loire and the Pay de la Loire, but this year they will also be rolled out in Grand-Est, Bourgogne-Franche-Comté, Hauts-de-France and Nouvelle-Aquitaine.
As a result of Brexit, drivers in France on UK plates no longer face conviction for speeding if caught by a speed camera, as there is no longer an exchange of information agreement in place between the two countries. However, even whilst in Europe there were problems with the enforcement of the cross-border rules, as we set out in our article Cross-Border Fines on Driving Offences.
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