The AA

French breathalysers

News   •   Jul 13, 2012 15:51 BST

One or two for the road?
2 July 2012

From Sunday (1 July), UK drivers heading off to France have had to carry breathalysers so they can self-test for excess alcohol before getting behind the wheel after a drink.

However, the law is unclear as to whether travellers must have a spare in case they use one and get stopped by the police later.

French law now requires all drivers to carry one breathalyser, marked with NF (French approved) on the box. Failure to do so will result in an €11 (£8.80) on the spot fine.  The law extends to drivers from other countries.

As it is likely that a driver ‘caught’ without an unused one will be fined, the AA advises that buying packs with two breathalysers guards against the risk. A pack of two can cost around £7.99 in the UK.

Britain differs from its European neighbours by not requiring drivers to carry safety items in cars, nearly all continentals do.  French law requires: a GB sticker, warning triangle, reflective vests, breathalyser.

You also have to make sure your headlamps don't dazzle by adjusting them or fitting deflectors.

Other countries require more although France is currently alone in requiring a breathalyser.

Self testing can help people learn when they break the law, but probably not when they are safe

Andrew Howard, AA head of road safety


“France has more road deaths than the UK.  A few years ago the French government embarked on a vigorous programme to cut these deaths. Both UK and France have drink-drive problems: the British drink less often but in bigger quantities but many French will consume wine with meals which creates a different drink-drive problem,” says Andrew Howard, the AA’s head of road safety.

The French appear to be concentrating on educating people as to what they can drink to stay within their limit, which is lower than ours (they are 50 mg per 100 ml of blood, while the UK is 80 mg).

We have long worked on ‘If you drive don't drink, and if you drink don't drive".  
Self testing can help people learn when they break the law, but probably not when they are safe.

Self testing can be dangerous.  However accurate the device, the human body ensures that alcohol levels don't peak until 40 minutes to an hour after drinking.

This means you can pass a self-test in the car park, and fail the police an hour later.