The list of departments that return to 90 km/h in all or part of its network continues to grow, with 46 departments having taken a step back. But why has this measure taken by Edouard Philippe’s government soured and some departments are in a bad mood at 80 km/h?

80, 90, then another 80 km/h, you had to go to 70, then, a few hundred meters later, go back to 80… or 90 km/h? We have probably all experienced this situation in recent years with the reduction of the maximum speed on the secondary network to 80 km/h instead of 90 km/h.

But almost five years after the passage to 80 km/h, the mess continues, and it happens, in certain sections, because you don’t know how fast you can drive.

## List of departments limited to 90 km/h

Here is the list of the 46 departments that return to 90 km/h instead of 80 km/h: Ardèche, Aube, Aveyron, Bas-Rhin, Calvados, Cantal, Charente, Charente-Maritime, Cher, Corrèze, Côte-d ‘ O , Creuse, Deux-Sèvres, Dordogne, Eure-et-Loir, Gers, Haute-Loire, Haute-Marne, Haute-Saône, Haute-Vienne, Hautes-Alpes, Hautes-Pyrénées, Haut-Rhin, Hérault, Indre , Indre-et-Loire, Isère, Jura, Loir-et-Cher, Loiret, Lozère, Maine-et-Loire, Marne, Mayenne, Meuse, Morbihan, Orne, Puy-de-Dôme, Saône-et-Loire, Sarthe , Seine-et-Marne, Tarn, Var, Vienne, Vosges, Yonne.

## back in 2018

To understand how we got to such a mess, we have to go back five years, to early 2018, when the government officially adopted, at the end of the Inter-Ministerial Road Safety Council, **lowering the speed limit from 90 to 80 km/h on secondary roads**.

Never since 45 years and with the Mazamet operation (the population of the town of Mazamet, in the Tarn, had laid down on the ground to symbolize the 16,545 people killed on the roads at that time), the government had opted to reduce the speed to reduce the number of road fatalities.

The latest speed reductions affected very specific sectors, such as the Paris ring road, where the reduction from 80 to 70 km/h was applied to reduce noise and air pollution above all. In this sense, the speed could also be reduced again soon, since there is talk of a limit of 50 km/h now in this road circle that surrounds Paris.

On Tuesday, January 9, 2018, therefore, Edouard Philippe, who was still Emmanuel Macron’s prime minister, announced the reduction in speed from 90 to 80 km/h on secondary axes. This measure applies from 1^{is} July 2018.

Are **in total 400,000 kilometers of two-way roads**, two lanes without dividing lines, which are affected, while highways are not affected. This decision to slow down had already been mentioned by former Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve, although the latter refused to adopt it and limited himself to launching an experiment.

At the time, the Prime Minister presented several figures to highlight this decision to slow down:

- Since 2012, the average speed on secondary roads has increased by 4 km/h
- At 90 km/h, it takes 70 meters to brake. At 80 km/h, the distance is reduced to 57 meters.
- At 80 km/h we lose three minutes a day on a 40 kilometer journey
- At 80 km/h an average of one life a day is saved, that is, a total of between 350 and 400 lives a year

## An unpopular measure

The change from 90 to 80 km/h on the secondary network has obviously caused a lot of talk, and many oppositions, through various social movements (and in particular the yellow vests), have pushed the government back.

Meanwhile, the coronavirus and the confinements have been there, thus disturbing the reading of the statistics used by Road Safety to extol the effects of this reduction in speed. However, in the first 18 months after the implementation of 80 km/h (before the health crisis), the figures showed that 80 km/h allowed a 12% reduction in mortality on the affected roads compared to the rest of the network according to figures from ONISR (National Interministerial Observatory for Road Safety).

However, despite this decrease in this period, the report from the Court of Auditors carried out in 2021 shows that the figures are stagnating after *“half a century of spectacular efficiency”*even after the implementation of 80 km/h, the Court of Accounts asks to change its tone **investing more in awareness and infrastructure**.

It was enough that many departmental executives saw it as a way of challenging the government, which within the framework of the Mobility Orientation Law, **had authorized them to reconsider the measure at the end of a trial period**.

## How much did it cost ?

Difficult to know how much it cost to go from 90 to 80 km/h in 2018 in France. The inter-ministerial delegate for road safety (DISR), Emmanuel Barbe, had mentioned **a sum between 5 and 10 million euros** for all of France.

The price of a panel ranges between 200 and 250 euros, expenses included (transport costs, labor of at least two people, etc.), for departments such as Nord and Pas-de-Calais, this means about 430 panels to change , therefore an envelope of at least 86,000 euros. The State had agreed to bear the cost of this measure through reimbursement after the works.

With the return to 90 km/h, **now it will be up to the departments to pay**. And there will be strong disparities, since everything will depend on the network chosen by the departments, as well as the number of kilometers of roads in question.

An 80 sign cannot always be simply replaced by a 90 sign. It is also necessary to sign each speed in each section, particularly at intersections. For example, if an 80 path intersects a 90 path, this results in several signals compared to none when all networks were at 80 or 90.

But why not bring out the “old” panels? just because **that a panel has a limited useful life**. Retroreflective pieces deteriorate over time. Depending on the category, a panel has a useful life of 7 to 12 years and should not be stored haphazardly. So, **most of the 90 panels will have to be remanufactured**.

## What are the departments to iron at 90 km/h?

After partially returning to its measure, some thirty departments had announced a return to 90 km/h almost immediately. At the beginning of 2023, the list of departments that are reinstalling the 90 km/h signs continues to grow, **bringing the number to 46 now**.

However, there are certain subtleties, because the departments have also reviewed certain items on a case-by-case basis, depending on the area, whether it’s accident-prone or not. For example, from 1^{is} August 2022, Puy-de-Dôme decided to delay 90 km/h on some of its departmental roads, but the departmental council also decided **establish a maximum speed of 70 km/h in 330 so-called “risk” sections**.

So, even in departments that have returned to 90 km/h, you have to pay attention to the signs, because certain portions may be more limited, as the Drivers Defense League points out precisely.

This return to 90 km/h does not necessarily seem to bother today’s government, which has probably moved on. On the other hand, on the road safety side, this setback is bad news.

*« LThe speeds practiced on roads whose maximum authorized speed (MAV) rose to 90 km/h as of 2020 are higher in 2020 and 2021 than those of 2017, before the reduction of the MAV to 80 km/h. »*, explains the organization. In other words, **we would drive faster than before on the same networks**while the top speed has been reduced to 80 km/h.

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