France Health and Safety Gestapo

Posted by  admin  Mar 12, 2015

Picture the scene; you’re in an open top sports car, if your my age it will probably be an E-type Jaguar or a vintage Mercedes, by your side is [insert your dream partner here] for me Sophia Loren or Raquel Welch. It’s a summer’s day and you are on a French country road lined with beautiful trees and you have a luxury picnic hamper and something chilled to drink in the boot. For a lot of people that’s the perfect image of driving in France.

Unless I win the lottery any-time soon, I'm unlikely to ever own an E-type Jaguar, and it’s equally unlikely I’d ever have a beautiful movie star by my side either but I should at least be able to muster up a ham sandwich, bottle of plonk and a beautiful tree lined road in France.

Well maybe not any-more it seems.

Movie Star French Tree Lined Road.jpg


Thousands of Trees to Be Cut Down

The health and safety Gestapo seem to have decided that the average person is incapable of realising that driving head first into a tree isn't a good idea so they’d better make the decision for us.

If this is allowed to happen throughout the whole of France it will be devastating it really will. One of the things I love about France is there almost total disregard for rules and regulations they don’t agree with so let us hope they stand firm on this.

The new road safety measure has ruled that trees are a public menace and should if “situated too near to the road” be felled to reduce the number of fatal accidents.

They claim 400 people die per year by crashing into roadside trees, and Bernard Cazeneuve, the interior minister with too much time on his hands, has asked local authorities to compile a register of all accident black spots and take action to get the trees cut down.

“On tree-lined roads, a simple error can prove fatal. In the past few decades, they have cost the lives of thousands of people,” said Chantal Perrichon of the nanny state (National road safety council)

Not surprisingly, a couple of petitions denouncing this stupidity have started up and hopefully there will be enough public outcries to stop this from happening.

If someone crashes into a cow would Chantal Perrichon be asking that all herds grazing nearby national roads should be shot?

It has been official policy in France for some time to fell trees that are within 1.5 metres of the road and therefore thousands of trees have bitten the dust because of this policy, however the new plan means many thousands more will go.

The petitioners against this new legislation argue that the trees in fact reduce the risk of road accidents as people who can’t see round bends will naturally slow down and the vast majority are sensible enough to know that driving head first into a tree at high speed isn't a good idea.

Trees capture carbon dioxide and soak up pollutants and are home to a great deal of wildlife. It is believed by some that they help drivers estimate just how fast they are going and judge bends easier.

Tree Lined Roads in France.jpg

Image: Corey Amaro

The Case for the Defence

This argument has been going on for over 50 years; President Pompidou said in 1970, "France does not exist solely for people to drive around in cars. The requirements of road safety should not disfigure the French countryside."

My view is that people who currently hit trees at 70 mph will just find something else to hit and if there is nothing to hit and gravel trap run off areas like they have in Formula 1 then people will just drive faster and faster. 

I know you shouldn't but try driving without your seat belt on for 5 minutes. I bet you’ll drive a little bit slower because you won’t feel so safe. The safer and safer the motorist feels the faster they go, that is an undeniable fact of life.

I say keep the trees and let’s all just slow down a little.

It’s thought that the Emperor Napoleon originally asked for trees to be planted along the roads so the soldiers could keep in the shade while marching. I don’t know if that's true but I know it is one of life’s pleasures to be able to drive in the shade throughout the beautiful French countryside and long may it continue.

If you are not sure what you need to carry with you when driving through France see here.


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