Road user behaviour observatory

The observation of traffic behaviour in 2020 shows an improvement in the use of seatbelts and helmets by cyclists, a study published by ONISR in September 2021.

Behaviours are observed by a specialised company on behalf of ONISR. They survey the use of seat belts, the use of helmets for motorcyclists and cyclists, the use of telephones while driving and vehicle occupancy. Observations were suspended between 2013 and 2015.

Behavioural observations resumed in 2016 after three years of interruption; the methodology has slightly evolved to include new categories of users (wearing seat belts in front of light commercial vehicles, wearing helmets by cyclists in urban areas). The main conclusions for 2018 are as follows.

In 2020, an increase in rear seat belt use

The rate of seat belt use by passenger car occupants remains stable in the front seat compared with the previous year, with a very marginal rate of non-use of seat belts, of between 1 and 2%. The front seat belt is worn less in large urban areas. At the rear of VTs, there was a significant increase in the rate of belt use on motorways (95%, +4 points) and a return to the 2018 level in large conurbations (90%) after the sharp fall in 2019. The comparison between working days and weekends does not show any significant difference.

For users of light commercial vehicles, the rate of seatbelt use observed in the front is 94% outside built-up areas and 96% in large urban areas, where it has risen significantly by 4 points compared to 2019 and by 10 points compared to 2016.


Helmets are almost universally worn by motorcyclists in mainland France, and are still on the increase among cyclists

Helmets are almost universally worn by motorised two-wheeler users in mainland France. In 2020, only 5 of the 572 users observed were not wearing them, all in built-up areas.

Helmet use by cyclists continues to increase. The rate is now 31%, compared with 29% in 2019 and 21% in 2016. Helmets are still worn more at weekends (37%) than on working days (27%).

Phone use on the rise among utility vehicle users, and very present among pedestrians

Observations of phone use show stable phone use for both car (3.3%) and truck (5.0%) drivers. These rates are higher on working days than at weekends. The rate of telephone use remains very high and continues to increase for LCV drivers, particularly in large urban areas, where it is 14.7% in 2020. For cyclists, it remains similar to that of 2016 (6.4%). Observations of telephone use by pedestrians at pedestrian crossings, conducted for the first time in 2020, show that 27% use it at some point during the crossing, including 21% with the distractor in their hand

Fuller vehicles on motorways and in built-up areas, less outside built-up areas

The observations also count the occupants of the vehicles, thus making it possible to estimate an average occupancy rate. For passenger vehicles, it is in the order of 1.33 to 1.57 depending on the road network (higher on motorways). It is higher at weekends than on working days, whatever the network considered.