Radar warning U-turn

Once again the bureaucrats got it wrong. Earlier this year it was announced that radar detectors (avertisseurs de radar) would be banned in France. No one had considered the fact that most GPS sat-navs have some sort of speed trap warning system built in. So using a factory installed GPS would, by extension, be illegal in France. That is unthinkable.

There are two types of sat-nav speed camera warning devices: passive and active. Passives are not really detectors but rather electronic maps which show locations where radar traps are known to be installed. They rely on feedback from users and are not always accurate since a newly installed or mobile camera might not be indicated. Active detectors are far more accurate as they use the waves transmitted from nearby speed cameras to determine the camera’s position and give drivers advance warning.

Secretary of State for Transport Thierry Mariani and Interior Minister Claude Guéant both insisted there would be no backing down from the new road safety legislation. That was before some energetic lobbying by speed detector manufacturers and thousands of motorists who had angrily written their MPs in a year preceding an election. Jean Auclair, UMP deputy for the Creuse, even told Libération: “If we push ahead with this, we lose the elections.”

Not wanting to make a total U-turn on what would have been a very unpopular piece of legislation, the government turned to wordplay to save face. Avertisseurs de radar would be banned but avertisseurs de zones dangereuses and assistants d’aide à la conduite will be permitted.

What were once radar detectors are now called “danger zone warning devices” or “driving aids”. All manufacturers have to do is change the way they refer to their product. That’s fine then.