Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Safety on French roads

Without wishing to sound alarmist I feel I should post a warning about the increasing numbers of attempted robberies and/or 'car-jacking' on roads in France, and those close to its borders - currently in particular the motorway from Barcelona to Le Perthus.

Some friends of mine were returning from Barcelona a few days ago when they heard a sharp,cracking sound as though their car had been hit by a rock or similar, and they were quickly overtaken by another car containing for men, signalling them to pull over as though there was some damage to their car.

Fortunately my friends had heard about incidents of this kind and continued to drive, ignoring the antics of the other vehicle, until they passed the next exit when the other car pulled off, no doubt to return later and seek another potential victim.

When they reached a service station they pulled in and parked close to the cafeteria and examined their car, which had been hit by something like a hammer or large piece of wood - it was this that had made the noise. When they told me their story, they said they had learnt from a retired British policeman in their village about these incidents and the advice he gave was

- never stop, continue driving until you reach a full service station (not a simple lay-by with no services), and park close to the shop or cafeteria where there are plenty of people.

- keep your doors and windows locked

- avoid stopping on lay-bys ('airs de repos') where you may see two or three cars parked but no services

- be particularly vigilant on motorways and main roads, cose to the border. For example, in Spain criminals will target British and French registered cars, assuming the driver is nervous about being in a foreign country and will assume it is a police check. It is not.

Incidents such as this are comparatively rare but alarming for those concerned. But try and stay calm, always be vigilant and - sadly - never trust a stranger.