Fatal road accidents will be reclassified as “road homicides” rather than involuntary homicides announced the Prime Minister. What does this new measure entail and when will it be effective?

Road safety associations have been heard, at least in part. This Monday, July 17, 2023, the Prime Minister formalized the reclassification of fatal road accidents as “road homicides” after a meeting with an interministerial committee dedicated to road safety (CISR). “Any driver who kills a person on the road and would be prosecuted today for manslaughter, will be prosecuted tomorrow for road homicide”, guaranteed Elisabeth Borne, considering that the term “involuntary” “rightly shocks” the families of the victims. The announcement made, the adoption of a legislative text remains necessary to add a few lines to the Penal Code and make the measure effective. But the majority is almost certain to be able to pass the measure “without incident” in Parliament. A debate will also be organized “very quickly” indicated the Prime Minister without giving a precise date.

If the announcement of the creation of the offense of “road homicide” is a mainly symbolic measure, it is a response to the complaints of the families of the victims of road accidents. This is a first step for the victims, but are road safety associations fully satisfied with the measure? What will qualifying as a road homicide change?

Drivers who cause the death of road users are, under current law, considered responsible for “manslaughter”. A qualification “unacceptable” for the families of the victims recognizes the entourage of the head of government. Changing the name of these acts to “road homicide” should make it possible to “better support the victims, better recognize them” explains Matignon to TF1 Info. The offense of road homicide will be held against all drivers responsible for an accident whether or not the latter “has consumed alcohol or narcotics” said Elisabeth Borne.

But the creation of this new offense, which is rather a change of name, is not accompanied by new penalties and is not intended to increase the penalties, adds the government: “This qualification of road homicide does not change anything in terms of repression”. This new qualification can only concern fatal road accidents. As for minor or serious injuries caused by drivers while intoxicated or under the influence of drugs, they will be reclassified as “traffic injuries”.

The penalties incurred by drivers who cause the death of others on the road, in particular after consuming alcohol or drugs, should be the same as those provided for in the Penal Code for intentional homicides. Namely: five years in prison and a 75,000 euro fine and up to seven years in prison and a 100,000 euro fine in the event of aggravating circumstances. If the driver accumulates several aggravating facts then the penalty may go up to ten years in prison with a fine of 150,000 euros.

If this semantic and symbolic requalification allows victims and families to be better recognized, the Prime Minister’s announcement is not totally satisfactory in the eyes of some. The president of the Road Prevention association, Anne Lavaud, believes that the crime of road homicide “is not going to fundamentally change things” and calls for “much stronger measures”.

Yannick Alléno, a starred chef whose son lost his life in a road accident caused by a drunk driver, agrees. When “someone who has taken illegal substances or drunk too much alcohol takes his vehicle, we consider that these preliminary acts are voluntary acts”, he explained at the microphone of BFMTV. At the head of an aid association for victims and families of victims of traffic offences, the chief wishes to change the law and punish more severely those guilty of these offences. However, despite the reclassification as road homicide, these accidents “will always be under the heading of manslaughter”. What he wants, on behalf of his association, is the creation of an “autonomous offence, distinct from manslaughter” with associated penalties.