‘Yellow vests’ blamed for spike in French road deaths

Paris: France’s road safety department has blamed a 17-per cent spike in road deaths last month on the destruction of radars by the “yellow vest” protesters. In February, 253 people died in road accidents in mainland France, 37 more than the same month a year ago. The figure was also a significant increase from January, when 238 people were killed.
“The effect of the widespread damage to fixed radars is increasing and is being felt in the deterioration of behaviour across the network”, the interior ministry’s road safety department said on Thursday.
The “yellow vest” revolt began in rural France in mid-November over fuel taxes but quickly grew into a broader wave of resistance to President Emmanuel Macron’s economic policies, seen as tilted towards rich urbanites.
Since then hundreds of speed radars have been vandalised or destroyed by protesters, who accuse the state of holding car-dependent rural-dwellers to ransom by lowering the speed limit on most secondary roads to 80 km/hour from 90 km/hour.
Interior Minister Christophe Castaner said in January that nearly 60 per cent of the country’s radars had been vandalised or destroyed.
While the number of attacks on radars has fallen since, government delegate on road safety Emmanuel Barbe warned on Thursday that motorists had grown used to keeping their foot to the floor, a situation he called “extremely concerning”.
He estimated the cost of repairing the damaged radars at 40 million euros ($45 million) and the lost revenue from speeding fines at 500 million euros. — AFP