The French road network has been particularly developed to meet the need to give easy access to a very large territory. 98% of this network is now managed by local authorities, county councils, urban metropolitan areas and municipalities. The study of the proper functioning of the road network must include the geometric characteristics of the roads (longitudinal profile - slopes, bends and straight lines, cross profile - road width and shoulders, ditches to evacuate rain), equipment that increases safety (horizontal - paint - or lateral - signs; guardrails...), but also to observe users in traffic.
The study of road infrastructure and analysis of risk areas, but also road user behaviour in relation to road environment, make it possible to make a diagnosis and propose ways of improving road user safety.
Moreover, the analysis of how serious crash occurred on these roads makes it possible to better understand the causes, and thus to identify any malfunction of the system "environment - vehicle - user" likely to be at the origin of the accident or having contributed to aggravate the consequences.
60% of fatalities on French roads occur on roads outside urban areas (excluding motorways, but including dual carriageways). The European average (2018 results) for the share of road deaths on the rural network is 48.5%. This share ranges from 56% for the United Kingdom and Spain to 48.1% for Italy. In terms of fatality numbers, this means that in 2018 France had 2 016 deaths on its roads outside urban areas, while Germany only had 1 616 (number calculated), Italy 1 606, the United Kingdom 1 030 and Spain 994.
According to the ISOMERR-Households study conducted by Ifsttar (ISOMERR-Households) on 2008 data, the risk of being killed per billion km travelled is significantly higher for rural residents than for urban dwellers. A motorist living in a rural area is 1.5 times more likely to be killed than a person living in an average urban area (20,000 to 100,000 inhabitants), and 2.7 times more likely than a person living in a large urban area (over 100,000 inhabitants).
France has specific territorial characteristics that make comparisons difficult. Its population is equivalent to that of Italy and the United Kingdom, and less important than that of Germany. However, its surface area and the length of the French road network are much greater : maintaining and improving such a road network represents a significant cost for the French taxpayer and limits the proportion of the network that can be upgraded to a high level of service. The overall traffic volume in France ranks third behind Germany and Italy but ahead of the United Kingdom. However thanks to its size, the French road network is better able to absorb it, traffic is less dense, which favours free speeds, and accidents can be really serious. Despite the fact that Germany and the United Kingdom allow higher speeds than in France on roads outside urban areas, speeds are often quite constrained.