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Boost for French drivers’ group in ‘too high’ speed bump court case

The challenge focuses on several oversized bumps in the south but a definitive ruling could impact almost all 450,000 speed bumps in France

France’s highest court, the Conseil d’Etat, has asked for clarification on the ‘legal framework’ for speed bumps Pic: Hadrian / Shutterstock / Scheenagh Harrington

Almost all of France’s 450,000 speed bumps are too high, causing damage to vehicles, injuries to drivers and bikers, and noise pollution for residents, several drivers’ associations claim.   

One association has taken a case to France’s highest court, the Conseil d’Etat, to decide whether bumps with sloped sides, known as trapezoidals, must comply with a law governing height (decree 94-447). 

The case was heard on October 25 and focused on several of these bumps installed in the Var in the south. 

The Conseil d'Etat has asked the Marseille administrative court to clarify the "legal framework" for speed bumps which has been claimed as a partial victory for the association. 

If the association does go on to win, then all speed bumps will have to apply the decree 94-447 standard, which, at present, is far from the case.

Speed bumps should be 10cm or less

Drivers’ association 40 millions d’automobilistes is among those that have long campaigned about the range of problems caused by non-standard, oversized speed bumps. 

One of the biggest issues for drivers is the height. 

Regulations state that the traffic-calming measure should be no more than 10cm high. 

Another association, the Ligue de Défense des Conducteurs, said it has counted almost 3,000 non-standard speed bumps in four years. 

UK speed bumps also have a 10cm maximum height.

In the United States, the height can vary but the Institute of Transportation Engineers said 3.5 inches (just under 9cm) was commonly accepted as the maximum. 

Read more: Are speed camera detectors in cars legal in France?

Damage to vehicles and drivers injured

In an extensive 2022 study, the Ligue de Défense des Conducteurs cited damage to the undersides and fronts of cars and vans as they were driven over high speed bumps, as well as two-wheeled vehicles slipping on rubberised versions.  

It included the results of its 2021 nationwide survey, which showed that almost half (47%) of 505 French bus drivers experienced pain in their backs, shoulders, arms and buttocks, caused by high speed bumps.  

The study also included various complaints about noise pollution from residents, who were fed up with hearing vehicles scraping over the speed bumps from the early morning until late at night.  

Read more: French village resorts to bizarre way of stopping cars from speeding

‘Remove all 450,000 speed humps in France’

The traffic-calming measures, known in French as dos d’âne (a donkey’s back) or ralentisseurs, first appeared during the 1980s. 

Standardisation and regulations were quickly introduced during the following decade, following “abuses in the implementation of these systems”, says 40 millions d’automobilistes. 

The association claims that some of those non-standard speed bumps remain in place today, while some of the newer ones that are installed are not always compliant with the regulations. 

For Antonin Morelle, the president of driver association Pour une Mobilité Sereine et Durable, the solution to the continuing speed bumps problem is both simple and obvious. 

“We are asking for the removal of all 450,000 speed humps in France, and for the roads to be redone as they were 30 years ago,” he told The Connexion

What are the rules?

  • Legal maximum height in France is 10cm
  • Legal length is 2.5-4m, depending on shape
  • They must be spaced no more than 150m apart
  • They can only be placed in built-up areas, motorway service stations, rest areas and forest roads
  • Within these zones, they are only allowed on roads with a maximum 30km/h speed limit
  • They are prohibited on roads used by more than 3,000 vehicles on average per day

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