4/3/2009French Legislators Question Accuracy of Speed Cameras
French lawmakers cry foul when speed camera maker certifies its own equipment as perfectly accurate.
The accuracy of the 2327 speed cameras blanketing French roads came under fire in the National Assembly Tuesday. At issue is the practice of allowing the private, for-profit company responsible for the ticketing programs to self-certify its own hardware as accurate.
"It appears that the automated radar speed control devices are not completely reliable or completely transparent," National Assembly Member Rudy Salles said in an exchange with the Interior Minister. "On every notice of violation, there is a box specifying: the location of the offense, the exact identity of the machine and the name of the agency responsible for its annual audit. However, for most of the installed photo radars, the auditor is also the one that manufactures and markets the devices, which would constitute a violation of the decree of 31 December 2001 which said that the agency responsible for regular checks must ensure conditions of impartiality."
A detailed set of regulations adopted by the French government require verification of camera accuracy by a neutral party.
"The impartiality of the [certifying] organization must be guaranteed," regulation 37.8 states. "Payment may not depend on the results of inspections. The remuneration of staff shall not depend on either the number or the results of audits."
The French speed camera company Sagem is responsible for the vast majority of the country's speed cameras. Sagem also certifies the accuracy Sagem radar devices (view ticket). Lawmakers cited a specific example of how self-certification creates a conflict of interest that calls into question the reliability of the entire certification process.
"We can read in a document sent to me by Francois Rochebloine... that the information was 'verified on 30 April 2009,' that is, next month," Salles said. "There is a problem!"
Government officials defended the system saying that the private company Sagem has an approved "quality assurance" program.
"There is therefore no need to challenge the reliability and regularity of the system," Secretary of State Christian Blanc told the General Assembly. "The government intends to expand deployment with an installation rate of about five-hundred cameras each year."