If the French government is listening let me put forward this rather important suggestion – you need to have a subsidised taxi service serving all your rural villages in order to stop people drink driving. Villages are small and spread out, lots of homes are on large plots of land in between and the only way people can get over to the next town for a night out or to visit friends is to drink and drive. Public transport doesn’t exist and there are no taxis. The country is so vast, there are so few cars on the roads and the back routes are so numerous that they can’t possibly be policed, and aren’t.
Since I got to France I’ve heard more stories of drink driving accidents and witnessed a much more blasé attitude to it than anyone would ever imagine in England. In England 290 people were killed in drink drive accidents in 2012 – compared to 3,654 in France. And don’t be fooled by the country’s size, it has a similar population to England – 65m compared to 63m. The complete lack of public transport seems countrywide – it was the same when we stayed in Tignes and, although Val d’Isere was just a 10-minute drive away, you couldn’t have a night out there as there was no way back except a very occasional taxi that charged an absolutely extortionate fee. Presumably the huge areas that would need to be covered make buses and taxis uneconomical. But this is definitely something that needs tackling or more lives will be lost.
Everyone has a car in France, but lots of them are old 1950s models you only see in England on period dramas. And many look like they wouldn’t pass an MOT. This could be because in France you only have to have MOTs every 2 years, except if your car is over 30 years old and then it’s every 5 years. The logic of this escapes me – it seems that the older the car and the greater the likelihood of something conking out, the less it needs checking according to the French. All in all I reckon the country’s transport policies are overdue a good MOT themselves.