Alcohol testing in France? Breathe easy. For now

Everyone who’s taken their car to France knows that the French police can be quite ruthless. You see them at toll booths waiting to pull drivers over. You see them roadside with the tailgate lifted and their nasty radar guns pointing out. They’re even on bridges trying to nick drivers passing underneath.

Their latest wheeze is that from July every car in France must have a breath test kit. Quite why makes you wonder if austerity measures in France mean the police can no longer afford their own. It also raises questions as to how they’re going to enforce this. Just pull drivers over randomly to see if they’re carrying one? Or will it be a Brucie Bonus for them if they’ve already nicked you for speeding and you don’t have one?

Of course in typical civil servant style it’s not any old breath test kit. It has to be French standard approved (their equivalent of a BSI). Irritatingly that means you can’t bring the UK approved tester you may already own, even though there’s every chance it’ll be more accurate than some of the ones you’ll buy in France. So as not pay rip off ferry prices, Alcosense sells one through places like Halfords.

More of a concern is that the law states there’s a grace period and they can’t actually levy the £9 fine for not having a breath tester until November. No problem with that. The AA however tells a different story. Rosie Sanderson, its specialist adviser on European motoring, revealed: “We’ve heard whispers that French police are already trying to enforce this.”

So if you do get stopped in France this summer, you don’t have a breath test kit, and they do try to fine you, a firm but polite ‘non’ should do the trick.

For more on driving abroad, check out this story I recently wrote for the Daily Telegraph.


About James Foxall

My 25-year career has been built on writing words that audiences want to read. Those words have been clear, concise, and imbued with the personality of the organisation they were shaped for. They’ve appeared in specialist magazines and national newspapers as well as marketing materials for commercial organisations. I was motoring editor at the News of the World for seven years and I still write a regular column for the Daily Telegraph. More recently as companies become publishers I’ve transferred my editorial skills to commercial organisations. My entire career has been in the automotive industry; my passion for effective communication is still rivalled only by my love of cars and motor sport. View all posts by James Foxall

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