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.