broken speen camera france

Some 2,600 cameras have been vandalised.
Up to 65 per cent of roadside speed cameras in France have been vandalised in a revolt against speed limits that is closely tied to the yellow vest protest movement.

Attacks began on the 2,600 ground-based cameras when President Macron's government reduced the speed limit on country roads to 80 km/h from 90 km/h last July, but intensified in November with the start of the rural revolt named after the "gilets jaunes", the high-visibility vests that drivers carry.

For car-dependent country-dwellers, the 80 km/hour limit symbolises the "arrogance" of a Parisian president who is indifferent to their plight. The roadside boxes have been burnt, painted over, blown up, smashed or simply covered with the jackets. The state has refused to give figures but officials have privately confirmed estimates from motoring organisations that 65 per cent of them were out of action, with about 300 destroyed. In the western Vendée department, 90 per cent have been sabotaged.

Emmanuel Barbe, head of the French road safety authority, called the damage "disastrous". Police efforts to trace the attackers have identified a dozen people. The cost of repairs runs into the tens of millions of euros and the state will face a drop in the billion euros of speeding fines that were forecast.

Many local government leaders side with the resistance to the 80 km/h limit, which was a main trigger of the roundabout blockades that appeared in November. Most have been dismantled as the movement has shrunk and fallen into the hands of radicals determined to overthrow Mr Macron.

Countryside councils are supporting an argument among motorists that the 80 km/h limit, which is only obeyed by a small minority of drivers, has actually made people drive faster and increased the risk of accidents. Pascal Coste, chairman of the Corrèze department council, told Le Figaro newspaper: "This is because lines of vehicles are driving at 70 km/h for fear of speed cameras. Other drivers overtake them as soon as they can and have to drive much faster."

The safety agency dismissed the arguments as false. Traffic was flowing better and the death rate had dropped nearly 6 per cent since the lower limit was introduced, Mr Barbe said.

Mr Macron is understood to regret the decision to impose the 80 km/h limit, which was a pet project of Édouard Philippe, his prime minister.

In a sign of a backlash against the violence at yellow vest protests, the president's approval rating rose five points in the past month to 28 per cent in a survey by Ifop polling on Monday.

Mr Macron is struggling this week to launch a "great national debate" on future reforms, which he promised in response to the protest movement.