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France proposes to scrap law requiring drivers to carry alcohol breathalyser

A law that requires all drivers in France to keep at least one disposable breathalyser kit in the car at all times is to be scrapped, it has been proposed.

The controversial rule, which was first introduced in March 2013, has meant that all Britons crossing the Channel in their vehicles have legally been obliged to have one of the breathalysers with them.

But the confusing stipulation is set to be dropped by the French government, which is due to adopt a new transport and mobility bill into law that discards the requirement for the kits.

The rule demanding that motorists carry at least one breathalyser in France has caused serious confusion since former president François Hollande chose to scrap fines for not having them.

Under original plans, any motorist caught by police without a single-use breathalyser would have received an €11 penalty.

However, the former president controversially opted to cancel on-the-spot fines before the rule came into force in March 2013.

But despite their being no penalty in place for failing to having a disposable testing kit, Hollande retained the law stating that motorists needed one in their car at all times.

With the implications of ignoring the law unknown, motoring organisations have since continued to recommend to drivers that they carry at least one of the disposable kits – which cost around £3 in Halford or £6 on P&O ferries – to avoid a ticking off from the Gendarmerie.

The law is now being abolished entirely as part of the ‘Le projet de loi d’orientation des mobilités‘ bill, which MPs voted in favour this week with 364 votes to 130.

It’s been reported that ministers are happy to see the rule removed due to its lack of impact on road casualties in the country.

The requirement for a breathalyser has been ineffective at cutting drink driving, which is believed to be responsible for around one third of road deaths in France.

Reacting to the news, 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 – and anyone caught over the limit faces some very tough penalties.’

While the drink drive limit in the UK is 0.8mg/ml of alcohol per litre of blood, it is almost half that across the Channel.

In France, the allowance is a maximum of 0.5mg/ml, reduced to 0.2 mg/ml for younger drivers.

Dennis added: “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 breathalyser manufacturer AlcoSense Laboratories, said the law would not be changed immediately and warned motorists it might still be a good idea to use the disposable devices when the obligation to carry them is eventually dropped.

“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,” he told This is Money.

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

Hunter Abbott, managing director of AlcoSense Laboratories and member of the Parliamentary Advisory Council for Transport Safety (PACTS) comments: “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.”

UPDATE 25/09/2019:

  • The Bill is a “Proposition de Loi” which means it is draft and not final.
  • It is a work in progress and may be adjusted with parts added and removed – i.e. it is not certain that the breathalyser law will be repealed.
  • The bill has passed the first vote in Parliament but this does not mean it will pass into law. A number of amendments are being made to the bill after input from MPs, however, it is not public knowledge what is and isn’t being added or removed from the Bill.
  • It has been passed back to the Senate for these revisions to be made. The Senate will then vote on those revisions and if they agree on them, it will be passed back for a second vote in Parliament.
  • The second vote in Parliament will be around November this year. If there are further revisions required the Bill will loop back to the Senate again and this will continue until all issues are resolved and the Bill is successfully passed by Parliament which could extend the timing from what is suggested below.
  • Assuming it is approved by Parliament in November, it will be set to pass into law in 2020. The French Highway Code, which governs this particular law, is updated on a schedule. The next scheduled revision is the October 2020 update to the French Highway Code (unless something unusual happens and they update it earlier).
  • The draft version of the October 2020 French Highway Code has already been published and it still includes the French Breathalyser Law.

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