As recently as the last time we visited France, it was common to be tooling along down the road and, whoosh, experience the hurricane caused by a car speeding into the distance at what might have seemed the speed of sound. No more. France has cracked down on speed.
|Slow down! Big brother's watching.|
There are speed cameras everywhere, snapping photos of you if you’re exceeding the posted speed limit—whether or not you’re having a bad hair day. Those cameras are located somewhere beyond a sign that essentially says (or implies) “slow down because we’re going to take your picture if you don’t.” And we all know what that means—big time fine. So you’d think the camera would get very little practice. And sure enough, it’s very uncommon these days to have a car whiz by—with or without the cameras. Like Pavlovian dogs, drivers seem to be adapting to the requirements of controlled speed.
On the péage, the tolls are paid according to the distance traveled since picking up the ticket. In addition, the machinery that calculates your toll also calculates the amount of time taken from the ticket retrieval to the payment. If you didn’t spend enough time on the road traveling at the appropriate speed, either the nice policemen will wave you on over for a chat—and exchange of cash—or there’ll be a notice when you get back to the U.S. If you’re stopped on the road, I hear that if you don’t have the cash, the gendarmes will escort you to the nearest ATM in order to extract enough to pay the fine on the spot.
In any event, the accident rate has fallen since the installation of cameras and other controls. Maybe there’s something to be said for France’s new methods.