Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Autoroute is a French word meaning, literally, a 'motor road', and corresponding to the words "motorway" or "freeway" in English. It is the name used in the francophone world for highways constructed exclusively for high-speed motor traffic, usually connecting one or more cities.
The autoroute logo, used to signal the entrance on the autoroute, represents a wide, grade-separated highway with a smaller road crossing on a bridge.
The Autoroute system in France consists largely of toll roads, except around large cities. It is a network of 7,000 km worth of highways. Autoroute destinations are shown in blue, while destinations reached through a combination of highways and autoroutes are shown with an added autoroute logo. Toll autoroutes are signalled with the word péage (toll).
The toll roads were granted as concessions to mixed-economy corporations; the non-toll roads are directly administered by the national government. Tolls are either based on a flat-rate for access to the road or on the distance driven. The latter case is the most common for long distances; users take a ticket from an automatic machine when they enter the autoroute, and pay according to the distance when exiting; toll booths accept cash, debit cards and credit cards.
- Under normal conditions - 130 km/h (80 mph)
- In rain or wet road conditions - 110 km/h (70 mph)
- In heavy fog or snowy/icy conditions - 50 km/h (30 mph)
Note that Germany does not impose a speed limit on freeways, in general. In normal conditions, there is a minimum speed of 80 km/h (50 mph) on the left lane.
Unlike other highway systems, there is no systematic numbering system, but there is a clustering of Autoroute numbers based on region. A-1, A-3, A-4, A-5, A-6, A-10, A-13, A-14, A-15, A-16 radiate from Paris with A-2 and A-11 branching from A-1 and A-10, respectively. The 20s are found in Northern France. The 30s are found in Eastern France. The 40s are found near the Alps. The 50s are near the French Riviera. The 60s are found in Southern France. The 70s are found in the centre of the country. The 80s are found west of Paris.
Some of the autoroutes have their own name in addition to a number: for instance, A6 and A7 are autoroute du Soleil (Freeway of the Sun), for they lead from Northern France to Southern France and its sunny beach resorts.
Security on the French autoroutes
The autoroutes are designed to increase the safety of the drivers; this allows a higher speed limit (130 km/h or 80 mph) than on the normal roads (90 km/h or 55 mph) with an acceptable risk of accident.
The safety measures are:
- one way driving: the lanes driving in the opposite direction are separated by at least a crash barrier which is designed to resists to the oblique impact of a car up to 180 km/h (110 mph); no crossroad but bridges and tunnels;
- larger lanes, at least 2 (often 3) lanes driving in the same direction, with a larger turning radius;
- long acceleration and slowing lanes to get in or out of the autoroute without disturbing the traffic;
- presence of an additional emergency lane where it is forbidden to drive (except for the emergency services) and to park (except in case of emergency);
- presence of emergency call boxes every 2 km on each side, that allow to call for help with the possibility to locate the call; some call boxes have flashing light that warn when there is a problem ahead;
- presence every 10 km (4-6 minutes of driving) of resting zones (aire de repos, i.e. car parks with public toilets), and every 40 km (20-30 minutes of driving) of a resting zone with a restaurant;
- regular patrols of the security services, to clear any obstacle and protect drivers in trouble (usually a breakdown or a flat tyre) with appropriate warning signs and beacons;
- dynamic information panels which warn about possible difficulties ahead (accident, men at work, traffic jam);
- an FM radio station (107.7 MHz) dedicated to the information about the traffic conditions;
- the day of very heavy traffic (e.g. beginning and end of school holydays): organisation of specific information and recreation events on the resting zones.
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