Gendarmes in the Var have decided to go for a friendlier image by warning of road checks via a Facebook page.

The Gendarmerie du Var Facebook page, which has 2,140 "likes", is a "way of being a bit nicer [sympa]", said the brigade's chief Colonel Damien Choutet.

Last Friday, for example, officers posted that "with the good weather back again, and this weekend a lot of coming and going for the All Saints' holiday, we suggest you take care on the roads. We'll obviously be checking on speed, with lots of checks in places like Saint-Maximin, Le Luc, Roquebrune-sur-Argens or La Londe-des-Maures".

Today they explained how they have been organising a day of "alternatives to fines". With agreement from the state authorities, they were inviting people who committed minor driving offences to stop and do a quick road safety course instead of getting fines and licence points, the officers said.

Twenty-five people took up the option, which involved reminders about key road dangers and legal rules, a crash simulation and meeting disabled accident victims.

Other recent posts included a reminder about Opération Tranquillité Vacances - the option of asking your local police or gendarmes to keep an eye on your home while you are away.

"It's just about giving little prevention messages, little reminders of safety advice for daily life," Colonel Choutet told RTL. "We'll also announce certain road check operations so as to inform about our activities."

Another Facebook initiative has proved less popular with the authorities - Info Contrôleurs Nice has been inviting people to post messages warning of the presence of officials doing ticket checks on trams and buses at certain stops. Nice mairie is seeking to have the page shut down. Facebook has also been used to warn of speed traps on the roads.