There's a very good radio station here in France called RMC. They have a lot of phone-ins, sports shows and 'human interest' slots, not least one hosted every weekday afternoon by Brigitte Lahaie, a former porn star turned radio hostess. Each weekday morning you'll find Jean-Jacques Bourdin fielding calls, irate and otherwise, by denizens of this fair territory on subjects from immigration, gas prices, Sarkozy's behaviour, his competence, the state of the Socialist Party, road tax and the rest. You get the picture. Anyhow, this morning there was an announcement, coming, presumably, from an insurance company's prepared press release, that the French now drive worse than before. This caught my attention. How could such a thing be possible? in any case, before what? Before joining the European Union? Before Sarkozy came to power? Before they won the World Cup in 1998? Before you could actually use Gérard Dépardieu's nose as a desktop letter holder? Or just simply before Axa decided to release their current slew of data? Whatever the truth behind the story, my immediate thought was that this company wanted to make a public excuse for putting up their premiums.
Apparently, 75% of French ignore amber traffic lights (94% in the under-25's), one in 6 phones or sends text messages at the wheel and fifty percent of indications are rather more seating suggestions to other drivers than flashing lights on the corners of the car. In other words, according to the report: "The French have started driving badly, again". Road deaths were up 25% in January, 7% in February. Dangers on the road "don't frighten them any more".
I'm not sure the French drive any worse than any other nation hell-bent on breaking the law, but these figures do seem a little contrived (road deaths up twenty-five percenty in January compared to what? That time last year? A first-quarter average?). It doesn't however alter the most salient fact: the figures were based on a sample audience of 1000 people questioned, many of whom were only too willing to admit they'd broken the law. So where are these people now? Why haven't they been rounded up and shot? They've admitted their crimes but are probably currently sipping coffee on some sun-soaked café terrace, phoning their mistresses at 120kmh in a built-up area or performing handbrake turns in school playgrounds. Axa had the opportunity to dob all these crooks in to the police but instead chose to turn Queen's Counsel and use their information as an excuse to put their prices up for everyone else.
So where does this leave us? You commit a crime and now, in our touchy-feely, 'everyone's beautiful' world, you can take part in a survey and use your felony to 'improve' life for everyone else. Any crime is apparently OK, providing you admit it, recognise your guilt and prostrate yourself for forgiveness. People conducting surveys should be invested with the power to arrest their subjects and, if, necessary, use extreme force or even immobilise them with taser guns. In the event of the survey being conducted over the phone, SAS-style commando units should be ready to pounce, rather like in George Orwell's 1984, when Winston and Julia are taken by surprise in their love nest above the antiques shop. A dispensation to shoot to kill should also be considered in the compilation of certain surveys, like drug use, rap 'music' and TF1 viewing figures. This would also free the police up to concentrate on more important tasks, such as standing around watching people peeing up against my building and laughing (see previous posts).