France set to scrap law forcing drivers to carry breathalysers at all times

France set to scrap law forcing drivers to carry breathalysers at all times
France set to scrap law forcing drivers to carry breathalysers at all times

France looks set to scrap a law which required all drivers, including those from other countries, to carry breathalysers in their car at all time.

The law was introduced in 2013 to try to address the country’s shocking drive-drive fatality record but has been mired in confusion and controversy from the start.

It required all drivers travelling in France, including those visiting from the UK, to carry at least one breathalyser in the car at all times and be able to use it if asked to by police. Those who didn’t have one were meant to be subject to an 11 euro fine.

However, even before the law came into force, President Francois Hollande decided to scrap the fine, meaning that drivers who failed to comply were still breaking the law but faced no punishment if caught.

Despite that, most motoring organisations and ferry operators heading to France advised British motorists to carry one to avoid problems with French police.

Read more: How accurate are home breathalysers?

Effectiveness ‘not proven’

The law now looks likely to be abolished as part of a new transport and mobility bill – Le projet de loi d’orientation des mobilités.

The French government said that the feasibility and effectiveness of the law hadn’t been proven in addressing the problem of drink-driving.

The offence is thought to be a factor in a third of all road deaths in France and around 1,000 people died in drink-drive related incidents last year. In the UK, despite drink-drive related fatalities reaching an eight-year high, they account for 250 deaths or around 14 per cent.

disposable breathalyser
The breathalyser kits had to be made to a specific “NF” standard for France (Photo: AlcoSense Laboratories)

Stricter limits

The bill is still making its way through the French parliament and, if it does become law, the breathalyser requirement won’t be removed until later in 2020. Until then, observers have warned drivers to remember France’s strict drink-drive limit and still carry a breathalsyer.

Read more: Driving abroad: what you need to know

RAC spokesperson Rod Dennis said: “While the law governing drivers carrying breathalysers in France might be about to change, drivers heading across the Channel should still remember that the country has a much stricter drink-drive limit than in the UK [except Scotland] – and anyone caught over the limit faces some very tough penalties.

“The best advice is to never drink and drive, whether driving in France or elsewhere. For any driver that still chooses to, it still makes a lot of sense to carry a portable breathalyser to check they are well below the relevant legal limit.”

Hunter Abbott, managing director of AlcoSense Laboratories and member of the Parliamentary Advisory Council for Transport Safety (PACTS) added: “It is still a legal requirement to carry an NF approved breathalyser in the vehicle while driving in France and that will be the case for a while yet.

“With the French limit significantly lower than the English limit and the penalties harsher, it will remain advisable to carry a breathalyser to test yourself while driving in France and avoid unintentionally drink driving.”

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