Cablegate: France Supports Measures Against Distracted Driving

DE RUEHFR #0141 0361616
P 051616Z FEB 10 ZDK




FOR OES/S Nancy Carter-Foster

ALSO FOR National Highway Transportation Safety Administration
(NHTSA) - Maria Vegega.

E.O. 12958: N/A

REF: State 6703

1. Summary: In a February 3 meeting with the Ambassador, French
Junior Minister for Transportation Dominique Bussereau praised
recent USG efforts on distracted driving. Bussereau described
ongoing GOF efforts to reduce road deaths from 7,000 a few years ago
to 3,000 by 2012 through enforcing speed limits with radar and
cameras and promoting safe driving habits through television spots
on distracted driving. In separate meetings, working-level
officials from both the Environment and Health Ministries told ESTH
Counselor that in 2003 France banned hand-held cell phone use and
texting in moving cars, and provided answers to reftel questions.

2. (SBU) On February 3 French State Secretary for Transportation
Dominique Bussereau praised recent USG efforts to ban text messaging
and the use of electronic devices while driving. Bussereau recalled
to Ambassador Rivkin that he participated in talks on these issues
at the Moscow ministerial conference on Global Road Safety in
November 2009 and confirmed France's participation at the upcoming
March UNGA discussion on road safety. In 2003, France banned text
messaging and the use of electronic devices while driving (although
it has a tolerance policy concerning the use of cell phones with a
"hands-free holder.")
3. (SBU) Bussereau recommended that the upcoming U.S. Department of
Transportation delegation meet with Michele Merli, Interagency
Delegate for Road Safety. Each month Merli, Environment Minister
Borloo, and Bussereau jointly present statistics on road safety.
Bussereau highlighted the GOF's ongoing and long-term commitment to
achieving sustainable improvements in road safety. Prime Minister
Fillon will announce on February 18 new measures designed to bolster
further road safety and prevent deaths, injuries, and property
damage resulting from unsafe traffic behavior. Bussereau reiterated
the GOF's goal to reduce the yearly traffic mortality rate to 3,000
by 2012 (currently at 4,000, down from 7,000 several years ago).
4. (SBU) In earlier meetings with the ESTH Counselor, Joel Valmain,
advisor for international affairs and the interministerial delegate
for road safety at the Ministry of Ecology, Energy, Sustainable
Development, and Oceans (MEEDDM), and Charles Saout, Deputy Head for
Environment and Food Risk Prevention, MEEDDM, confirmed that France
shares the concerns of the U.S. about the dangers of distracted
driving and that France would work closely with Secretary LaHood on
this issue.
5. (U) Specific Answer to reftel questions:
-- Existing laws banning texting or cell phone use: In 2003, France
banned hand-held cell phone use in cars as a distraction to driving.
This includes both talking and texting while driving. (Embassy
note: Enforcement of this ban is lax to non-existent.)
-- Available data regarding crashes due to distracted driving:
Explicit data regarding fatalities, injuries and crashes directly
related to distracted driving is not available due to the difficulty
in determining the exact cause of the accident, which might involve
multiple factors (i.e., a drunk driver who is speeding while
texting). The Ministry of Health's assessment is that the risk
drivers take when using a cell phone while driving is five times
greater than those who do not, and seven percent of accidents could
be prevented if drivers did not use their cell phones.
-- Nationwide education campaigns against distracted driving:
France offers multiple online educational campaigns regarding the
dangers and risks taken while driving. This includes the use of
cell phones while driving. Audio and visual examples show the
associated consequences of distracted driving including resulting
accidents ( The GOF urges drivers
not to use a cell phone at all when driving, though traffic
infractions are only issued if one is holding a device. Pamphlets
are available to foreign visitors in English informing them of
traffic rules and regulations while driving in France.
-- The effectiveness of efforts to reduce distracted driving:
France has been very proactive and effective in reducing accident
fatalities and injuries by enforcing speed restrictions on drivers
in recent years. With the increased implementation of traffic
cameras and radar and driver tickets issued, France has lowered the
number of car accident deaths from 7,000 to 4,000 in the recent
years. They hope to bring the number down to 3,000 by 2012.
-- Prevalence of text messaging and cell phone use: Recent data
from France reports that approximately 2 percent of public drivers,
2.5 percent of small commercial vehicle drivers, and about 4-5
percent of truck drivers use their cellular phones while driving
(talking and texting is not distinguished). In 2007, there were an
estimated 19 billion text messages sent nationwide with numbers
increasing each year.

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