Expatriates Reminded of New French Breathalyzer Law

Expatriates who are currently living in France have been reminded of the need to adhere to the new law that requires all motorists to carry two breathalyzers in their car at all times.

The law, which was implemented in a bid to reduce the number of alcohol-related accidents on French roads, came into force on Sunday the 30th June and any motorists who fail to adhere to the requirements will face an on-the-spot fine of €11, although a grace period will be in operation until the 1st of November 2012. According to authorities, approximately 4,000 people are killed on French roads every year, with drink-driving being the main factor in accidents. It is hoped that drivers will use the breathalyzers to check the level of alcohol in their blood before driving their cars.

“Every driver of a motorized land vehicle, excluding mopeds, must possess an unused and immediately available breathalyzer,” said the decree, published in the official gazette (“Journal Officiel de la République Française”) and in addition to the breathalyzers, expat drivers in France are also required to carry a high-visibility safety vest and a warning triangle.

The new laws have received mixed reaction from expatriates living in France. Discussing the laws with U.K. newspaper The Telegraph, one British expatriate commented: “Anything that makes people think twice about drink-driving should be applauded. Just last week the local gendarmes in Cognac were stopping everyone for a random breath test and I really don’t have an issue with it.

“I have two young daughters who cycle these country lanes every day; taking five minutes out of your day to put a kit in your car as a permanent reminder not to drink and drive truly isn’t much to ask.”

However, more skeptical residents in France argue that the law was implemented as a result of foul play. According to France 24, Daniel Orgeval, the president of the road safety lobby group that persuaded the Sarkozy government to adopt the law also works for Contralco, one of two manufacturers whose breathalyzer kits meet the required government standard. Those who oppose the law have pointed out that prior to the implementation of the law, Contralco was suffering from financial problems but have now overcome these as they struggle to fulfill the demand for over 5 million breathalyzer kits a month.

Elsewhere, many road safety groups have raised concerns about the effectiveness of breathalyzers, which, according to experts, may not always be effective. Specialists point out that alcohol levels can continue to rise for up to 45 minutes after alcohol has been consumed and the use of a breathalyzer prior to the completion of this process could result in motorists driving while under the influence.