Alcohol and Drugs Leading Cause

Of Death On French Motorways


365227674 617650903824611 4193406432524321558 nThe National Gendarmerie assisted with data and analysis for the report. PHOTO: GENDARMERIE.FR17 AUG - Alcohol and drugs are the leading cause of fatal crashes on French motorways, shows a recent report by the Association of French Motorway Companies (ASFA).

The number of people killed on motorways jumped in 2022, the report also indicates.


188 people lost their lives in 2022 on French motorways, compared to 131 in 2021. Although the motorway network remains the safest in France, it is experiencing an unprecedented increase in the number of deaths. The assessment of 2022 revealed by Le Figaro newspaper shows an increase of 43% compared to 2021. The massacre on the motorways is largely linked to three factors: alcohol, narcotics and medicines. In 23% of cases these substances were the main causes of these tragedies. Already observed in the aftermath of the health crisis, this worrying phenomenon is confirmed today. „Very clearly, these results reveal a worrying trend: increased risk-taking by the driver. We are witnessing dangerous and almost voluntary behaviour by part of road users“, said Christophe Boutin, ASFA’s General Delegate.


Long underestimated in the causes of road accidents, drugs and alcohol are now clearly identified as targets to combat. Recently the Interministerial Committee on Road Safety (French acronym - CISR) decided to toughen the penalties for driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol. As on the rest of the road network, young drivers are overrepresented in these fatal highway collisions related to substances. Every other time the perpetrator is under 35 years old. „60% of these accidents occur at night and 42% occur on weekends“, the report shows. 'In addition, one in two alcohol-impaired drivers is found to have a blood alcohol concentration greater than or equal to 1.2 g/l of blood while the legal limit is 0.5 g/l of blood“, states the report, compiled by ASFA with France's National Gendarmerie and National Police assistance. „Sworn highway agents are authorized to examine the minutes drawn up by the police and gendarmes, carried out on the occasion of these fatal accidents in order to identify the reasons and analyze them“, Boutin explains.


Fatigue has long been the leading cause of fatal crashes and is now the second most common cause, accounting for 18% of fatalities. 'The 5-hour/8-hour window alone accounts for 23% of accidents,' added Asfa. 'This risky moment of daylight is explained. “Either the drivers got up earlier than usual and were sleepy, or they drove all night and were caught up in fatigue,” the delegate general said.


As for "excessive speed", which has been constant over the past five years, it is responsible for 16% of fatal accidents, most often caused at night. Again, drivers under the age of 35 are overrepresented. They make up half of the speeders who caused fatal collisions. On par with non-compliance with speed limits, the distraction factor related to use of (mobile phone, GPS, etc.) occurs in 16% of fatal crashes. This lack of attention peaks during commuting. „Knowing the route, drivers take the opportunity to read or send emails. The road becomes the continuity of their office“, laments Christophe Boutin.


During this assessment, particular attention was paid to pedestrians, who are present in 17% of fatal crashes. A constant figure since 2018. In 65% of cases, tragedies occur when person leaves a damaged or crashed vehicle. In 22% of the situations they occur during a risk taking of pedestrians crossing motorway.

Finally, ASFA reports that 2022 was a black year for staff working on its network. Four people were killed there. Among them, two agents of motorway companies, a gendarme and an employee of a breakdown service company. 2022 resulted in 169 crashes in which 16 employees were injured, 12 of which were struck by a vehicle on the road. Aware of the risks involved, the government indicated at the last CISR board meeting that it was considering introducing of a new type of device: an acoustic radar to alert motorists when approaching people working on the road.