“We saw him pass twice. The first time, it drove slowly. But the second time it was 140 km/h. The construction workers were terrified”. Didier has been an agent at the Interdepartmental Directorate of Western Roads (Diro) for twenty years. He had never seen that. While his service is responsible for closing part of the southern ring road of Rennes every night to allow major night work, he twice saw a motorist force the dam to enter the closed road. “It was a black 308. We even have videos that show it. But we do not distinguish the plate ”. To enter the ring road, however closed, the driver forced the studs and the orange vehicles of the Diro. After these two incidents, a heavy weight was placed across the road.
To listen to Didier, this incident is far from being an isolated case. Despite more and more signaling devices, road officials have never felt so much in danger. Proof by the numbers. Since the start of 2022, twelve Diro vehicles have been involved in accidents in Brittany alone. And each time, the observation is the same: the motorist was not attentive. “People don’t realize the danger they are putting us in. We see truck drivers watching TV, people filming us while they’re driving. We have the impression that they have nothing to do with the others, ”continues Didier. Communication campaigns were launched last year after a proliferation of accidents. In vain. The year 2022 is even worse.
His colleague Fabrice witnessed another mind-blowing scene recently. While a row of orange studs had been installed on the road to protect a broken down vehicle on the ring road, a motorist saw fit to slalom between the cones. “I have the impression that people deviate less than before. We get shaved. People only realize the danger when they’re down on the hard shoulder. In general, they are very happy to see us arrive,” says Fabrice. Roads agent for more than twenty years, the Breton has seen the proliferation of dangerous behavior. But also the flagrant increase in the number of vehicles. “Before, you could cross the tracks to get something in the middle. That era is over.” In Côtes d’Armor and Morbihan, this week will be marked by two tributes to two agents killed in the exercise of their missions in 2002 and 2012.
A new rule too little known to protect them
In 2018, a new rule was however added to the Highway Code, forcing motorists to deport. Called “safety corridor”, it requires drivers to “leave a clear path between the responders and their vehicles or shift as much as possible to the left of their lane and slow down significantly”. The objective was clear: to reduce the number of accidents involving road agents, whether those working for the State or those exercising for the departments. “But nobody knows about this new rule. And I feel like people don’t care. We have colleagues who have been attacked, we are often insulted. For me, it is a social problem. We have people who drive without a licence, without insurance. They think they can do anything,” analyzes André, who has worked at Diro for twenty-six years.
To protect a profession that agents describe as “increasingly dangerous”, the authorities regularly launch operations to raise awareness among the general public. This will be the case everywhere in the coming weeks in Brittany where messages inviting motorists to slow down near the agents will be broadcast. This Monday, the regional prefect visited the agents of the Rennes center to support them. And hammer this message: “slow down, slow down, slow down”, advised the prefect Emmanuel Berthier.