Much has been written – some of it by me – about driving in France, including responsibilities at the wheel and penalties for infractions. Much less is written about pedestrians and how they should behave. A recent story in The Connexion about the police in Saint-Etienne cracking down on errant pedestrians spurred me to find out more.
The website Association Prevention Routière cites figures for pedestrian casualties in France. In 2012, 489 pedestrians were killed and 11,247 injured in road accidents. That’s 15% of total victims of such accidents. They are often young children or elderly people.
The most frightening statistic is that more than one in three pedestrians killed in towns were actually on a pedestrian crossing at the time. I can well believe this. You only have to go to our local village, which has a main road slicing through it, to see driver inattention in action.
I have almost been mown down in the middle of a crossing on countless occasions by drivers (a) chatting on their mobile; (b) paying more attention to their passenger(s) than the road; (c) not being bothered to stop; or (d) not appearing to have seen me at all. I’m sorry to say that I think the French are a bit cavalier in this regard. If someone stops for us, we always joke, “They can’t be French.”
Drivers are supposed to be fined for not stopping, but this is terribly difficult to enforce unless they cause an accident.
Pedestrian rules of the road
New rules in 2010 amended the Code de la Route (Highway Code) to give pedestrians more rights. They can now cross the road anywhere and motorists must give way if they have started to cross or “show a clear intention to do so”. There are some exceptions, though, and cases where pedestrians themselves can be fined:
- If a pedestrian crossing is within 50 metres of you, you must use it.
- If there’s no crossing, you must cross in a line perpendicular to the road, i.e. not meander across on the diagonal.
- You must make sure you can cross without risk and that visibility is good for drivers.
- If there are pedestrian lights, you must only cross when they are green.
Penalty for infringing these rules? €4.
You’re also supposed to walk only on the pavements, where they exist. In country lanes, you should walk on the left, i.e. facing oncoming traffic, unless you’re in a group of walkers or a procession, for example.
As always, there is another side to this. Some pedestrians are not themselves considerate or responsible road users. The Saint-Etienne coppers issued 186 fines within 45 minutes to people who didn’t cross properly, following a spate of accidents where careless pedestrians might have been at fault.
I see people breaching the rules above all the time, probably because they don’t know about them. Pedestrians in our village execute the daftest manoeuvres to get across, dicing with death when they could have walked 10 metres to the crossing to do so. And people wander about in car parks as if they don’t expect to see a car. Not to mention those that find walking in the gutter more congenial than using the pavement.
I believe that the 2010 amendments, making drivers give way to pedestrians wherever they cross, are a recipe for more accidents. Time will tell whether this has been the case.
What do you think?
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