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Breath test kits obligatory in cars

Sarkozy announces new measures including 400 new speed cameras to cut road death toll

DRIVERS will have to carry a breath test kit in their vehicles from next spring as part of new measures by President Sarkozy to cut the roads death toll.

Other measures include 400 new speed cameras, the introduction of new-generation radar units that work from moving police cars and measures to bring in automatic speed reduction systems in cars. The president also said he was looking at creating a national day for road death victims.

In all, 3,980 people died on the roads in the 12 months to October 31 and Sarkozy has little chance of meeting his own target of under 4,000 deaths in 2011. The new measures, he said, are aimed to bring the death rate down to 3,000 by the end of 2012.

Sarkozy said speed cameras were not "easy budget boosters" and that all the money from fines was put back into road safety.

Alcohol is the No1 cause of deaths, being involved in 31% of fatal accidents, and Sarkozy said in-car breath test kits would let drivers will know whether they were safe to drive. However, he made no announcement on increasing the number of points lost off a licence for drink-drive offences. At present drivers lose six of their 12 points, so a ban is not automatic.

A Sécurité Routière official said the breath test would be a simple "balloon into which you blow and which you need to have in your car or face a fine of €11."

Interior Minister Claude Guéant has also asked EU authorities to look at the obligatory installation of anti-start breath test monitors in each car. Drivers would have to blow into the machine - and pass - before their car would start.

Also, from today, discos and clubs must have breath test machines available for customers to use to know if they have had too much drink or too much to drive.

Drivers already have to carry a fluorescent waistcoat and a warning triangle in their vehicles but there was no indication of whether motorcyclists and scooter riders would have to carry breath tests.

Sarkozy made a point of highlighting the number of motorcycle road deaths last year, saying: "It is not normal that in 2010 24% of the deaths are on two-wheels when they make up just 2% of traffic."

He did not say if the motorcyclists were the cause or the victims of accidents.

Road safety campaigner Chantal Perrichon welcomed the measures as "going on the right road" but added that they should have been done earlier.

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