Drivers in France no longer need breathalyser kits

The law was intended to help combat drink-driving, but has been dubbed ineffective by the government

Drivers in France will no longer be obliged to carry breathalysers in their vehicles at all times, as the discredited and ignored law that required it has finally been formally scrapped.

The law was introduced in 2013 as a means to improve drink-driving figures, but the scheme has not “proven effective” in combating the issue, the government said, and it has now been formally scrapped as part of the new transport bill, le projet de loi d'orientation des mobilités.

The bill, which was passed by MPs this week, includes an article saying the law obliging drivers to carry breathalysers will be removed from French statutes.

The scrapping of the law has long been expected. The government said in 2018 that, "The feasibility and effectiveness of this [law] have not been proven.”

It had caused confusion after former president François Hollande scrapped planned €11 fines for not carrying a breathalyser before the law came into effect.

The law, however, was officially retained - meaning that motorists technically should have had one in their car at all times. All the police could do, however, was remind those without them that the law existed.

But motoring organisations outside France continued to recommend that drivers heading to the country should carry one of the disposable kits to avoid problems in case they were stopped. They have long been advertised as a legal requirement on ferries from the UK to France.

The law was also widely discredited after it was reported that a lobbyist who had called for its mandatory introduction was an executive at a company that manufactured the testing kits.

Despite strict drink-drive limits, drink-driving in France is recognised as a serious problem, with excess alcohol linked to around 1,000 road deaths last year - a third of the 3,259 deaths recorded in 2018. In comparison, in the UK - for example - the figure is 250 road deaths linked to excess alcohol in the same year.

The current drink-drive limit in France is a maximum of 0.5g of alcohol per litre of blood and corresponds to 0.25mg per litre of breath. From 0.25mg/l, drivers risk having their licence suspended and a €135 fine.

When over 0.40mg/l, the driver has to go to court and can face a €4,500 fine and two years in prison.

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