New breath test law in France

<New French alcohol breath test kit for cars>On Sunday, a law kicks in across France that’s caused a stir. Drivers will have to add a breath testing kit to the existing required safety equipment of reflective triangles and safety vest. French police hope that drivers will do their own breath test if they think they’re over the limit. I do see a slight flaw in this logic: drunk people never think they’re that drunk. They’re going to have to rely on a friend to tell them that they should take the test. There’s a flaw there too though. A friend around these parts is probably more likely to tell them of any police spotted by others and suggest alternative ways home to avoid getting caught.

I know I know: a true friend would stop them from driving, but that friend is probably also drunk and resisting taking the test. And even if both friends insisted they each take the test, they’d both agree after that the test is wrong and they’re both fine to drive home.

A tad cynical, right? Not as cynical as some. Only two different breathalyser kits have been approved for use, and it turns out that a senior executive of one of those companies is the head of the road safety group that lobbied the Sarkozy government to implement the law. The French company, Controlco, have reportedly gone from ‘struggling’ to struggling to keep up with demand.

Pictured is the alternative offering by Redline Products of South Africa, which are currently on sale at Carrefour for a discount price of €2 each (normally €3). The pictures on the back have a tick and a cross that say “Test negative” and “Test positive”, but I wonder if they shouldn’t just have “Too drunk” and “You can drive” to avoid drunk people thinking that positive is a good thing.

Police are planning to check cars coming into France from the various ports as well as spot checks around the country, but don’t panic if you don’t have the kit just yet: in typical laid-back French style, the police will be showing some leniency until November, giving everyone time to adjust to the new rule. And after that date, if any tea-totaller should fail to convince police that they don’t need to carry around a breath test they will never use, the fine is only €11 anyway.

Addendum November 2013: the law about carrying a breath test kit has been put on hold for now, where it’s likely to stay for a very long time.

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I'm a technical author, journalist and writer from Australia who has been living in Europe since 2000 and exploring the world from there. My passions are writing, snow sports and travel.

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4 comments on “New breath test law in France
  1. Steph says:

    This is THE most ridiculous law ever. I just can’t see how it’s going to work. If you’re drunk enough to need to use the test, you’re too drunk to care what the results are anyway! The only way to deal with drunk driving is to get cops out there picking up offenders. It’s annoying too because it implies we’re all potential drunk drivers but the majority of people are sensible and law abiding.

  2. Wendy says:

    Steph, you’ve hit the nail on the head there. Now everyone in France is paying (literally) for the mistakes of the idiots who drink and drive, without any foreseeable reduction in the number of drunk drivers. More policing would make sense for sure.

  3. Sue says:

    If it’s any consolation.. lots of drunk driving on the southern side of the Alps. I’ve had strange looks because I’ve walked a couple of k to somewhere because I knew I was going to have a few (e.g. football team end of season dinner!). I also drive back to the UK on an annual basis so am affected by this law.

    Fortunately I picked up a couple of freebies at a public health fair over here, plus some rubber goods and associated products (ahem), so I’m ready to go… at least to any non-alcoholic orgy I might gate-crash.

  4. Wendy says:

    Wow – Italian public health fairs sound rather racy! Good on you for being responsible on the roads (and elsewhere).

About me

Wendy Hollands writer in Annecy, France

I'm an experienced professional writer based in the French Alps. I enjoy learning French language nuances, winter sports and travel. Read more...

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