As part of its ongoing commitment to the EU's eSafety strategy, the French government is developing a fully automated road traffic enforcement system designed to reduce accidents and improve road safety.
Le Système de Contrôle Automatisé is based on a network of digital, roadside cameras connected to a central control point. Initially, the system will deal with offences of excess speed although there are plans to extend the scheme to cover 'bus-lane offences, red-light running and tail-gating. Trials for this second phase are already under way.
The first 100 devices were installed at the end of last year with 70 fixed sites and 30 mobile systems now in operation. A further 1000 devices are expected to be introduced throughout France before the end of 2005.
"The (enforcement system) will be operational 24 hours a day so that drivers are encouraged to change their driving attitude. (The devices) will be used on roads prone to accidents where recorded speeds are usually high. Speed reduced by 10% decreases accidents by 10%, serious accidents by 20% and the number of killed by 40%." said a Ministère de l'Intérieur communiqué.
Using a radar-based system of speed detection in conjunction with digital cameras for evidential purposes, the data is processed through encrypted ANPR software linked to a data-base of vehicle owner details. A central processor located at a Centre National de Traitement will analyse the incoming data and prepare any further action required
Speed detection/enforcement will rely on both fixed and mobile system sites. Fixed installations are to be placed at sensitive spots, including tunnels, that are prone to accidents and will be housed in reinforced intrusion-proof cabinets. Mobile devices are to be carried in unmarked police cars to be used on main roads.
The initiative follows a decision by the French government, taken in 2002, to investigate means of reducing the high level of injuries resulting from traffic collisions. Ten experimental sites were used to support the initial study. These included enforcement sites, in April 2002, at the Fréjus tunnel and at St Etienne, both of which have since returned significant reductions in the casualty rate.
The fully computerised system deals with the complete evidential trail from the capture of the image and identification of the location, through the preparation of the paperwork and the demand for the payment of the fine.
"The digital technology guarantees the authenticity of the data passed. It facilitates the building of a continuous network between the camera and the centre in charge of collating the information." said the communiqué.
Nor will foreign drivers caught by the system, be able to escape. The government is in talks with other EU member states with a view to the creation of mutual legal assistance agreements that would see foreign nationals being pursued in their own countries for the non-payment of fines.