Controversy on breathalyser law

Breath tests must be carried in every vehicle from July 1 - Photo: Sébastien - Fotolia.com

Senior executive with breath test manufacturer headed road safety group pushing new proposal

CONTROVERSY surrounds the launch of the new breath test law on July 1 which forces drivers to carry a breathalyser in each vehicle or face a €11 fine (from November).

Drivers' groups have been protesting for some time that the law was pushed through by Interior Minister Claude Guéant and the Sarkozy government under pressure from a road safety group, I-Test - whose president is a senior executive with the No1 manufacturer of breath testing equipment, Contralco.

Now major news media have picked up on the story, with RTL and Sud Ouest asking if there has not been a conflict of interest.

I-Test president Daniel Orgeval is head of training at Contralco and the Hérault company had been in poor financial health for some time until the law was brought in.

Now, the new law - which recognises only equipment meeting the Norme Française standard - has meant an immediate boost as it opens a domestic market of 46 million motorists and two-wheeler users.

Contralco has taken 100 staff since last year on the back of a demand for five million tests a month - and now employs 174. It and South African company Red Line Products are the only two companies that meet the NF standard. Contralco has 78% of the market.

However, they are failing to meet demand, with shops across France reporting that they have run out of supplies. Earlier this month French customs officers seized 19,500 fake Chinese breathalysers in raids at Charles de Gaulle Airport, Marseille and Lyon.

Orgeval himself told Sud Ouest when contacted: "No, I don't spend my weekends with Claude Guéant; I was just very convincing in front of the MPs."

He added that he had been involved in road safety for 30 years and said I-test was not unusual in having industry representatives on board.

* Although the law comes into force on July 1 the €11 penalty for not carrying a breathalyser will not apply until November.
Photo: Sébastien - Fotolia.com

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