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Driving instructors block roads across France

media The French driver's licence. RFI/Sigrid Azeroual

Angry French driving instructors have brought traffic to a standstill in many parts of the country to protest proposals they claim would destabilise their profession and compromise road safety.

Paris, Marseille, Bordeaux and Nice were among the cities affected by personnel of driving schools who slowed traffic in protest against recommendations contained in a parliamentary report.

They also slowed cars on the A3, A6 and A13 national highways and at four points along the ring road surrounding the capital, essentially stopping the flow of traffic.

“For the sake of road safety, don’t touch my profession,” read signs attached to the windows of driving school vehicles as they crawled through Paris streets.

Driving schools were affected by the 2015 “Macron Law”, passed when President Emmanuel Macron was Economy Minister, which sought to deregulate and cut red tape in a number of sectors.

Last November, Macron announced a “drastic reduction in the cost of getting a driving licence”, saying it would allow young people to obtain the licence faster and at lower cost.

A parliamentary commission submitted its report on the sector to Prime Minister Edouard Philippe on 2 February.

Dangers involved in low-cost licence proposals

Unions approve of many of the report's recommendations, but have warned that two proposals would upset the current system of preparing for the theoretical and practical tests required for obtaining a licence.

The first would streamline accreditation rules for driving schools, which unions fear will lead to a loss of oversight and competition for online platforms.

A number of start-ups already exist that propose courses at half the price charged by traditional driving schools, leading the traditional schools to warn of “low-cost” driver’s licences.

The second point would reduce the requirement for candidates to access driving tests via driving schools and allow them to register on their own, which unions say would have consequences on candidate’s contacts with instructors.

Unions also argue that driving schools are necessary for public awareness about the risks of driving.

“The licence to drive must not become a licence to kill,” wrote union CNPA in its call to protest.

The average cost for obtaining a driver’s licence in France is about 1800 euros, according to the consumer advocacy group UFC-Que Choisir in 2016. That means France is among the most expensive countries in Europe for obtaining a licence.

Unions say much of that cost could be brought down through reducing taxes and fees.

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