Drink Driving in France - Do you need a breathalyser?

Feb 25, 2013

Drivers today are well aware that most countries have strict drink driving laws, and France is no exception. The advice is always that if you're driving, stay off the drink. But just what are the alcohol limits in France, and what penalties are there if you do drive over the legal limit?

In most cases, levels of intoxication are measured using blood alcohol content, which is in essence the percentage of a persons blood which is alcohol. This level varies from country to country even across Europe. The level of alcohol in the blood after drinking varies with a number of factors, such as the type and amount of drink consumed, the weight of the person drinking it, and over what period of time the drink is imbibed. This all means that giving a "safe" level of consumption for everyone isn't possible and each person should bear in mind that alcohol consumption may lead to more or less blood alcohol than similar consumption in another person.

There has been much publicity over the introduction of a law in France that requires drivers to carry a portable blood alcohol testing kit. What's less well known though is that this law has been highly controversial and, currently, enforcement of it has been put on hold. In effect, that means that, although the law states a breathalyser should be carried (two in fact, so if one is used there is another available), this will not be enforced and drivers without them should not be subject to a fine. The devices themselves are inexpensive, however, so drivers may wish to carry a kit in any case - and use it should they suspect they may have some alcohol in their system.

There are still other requirements when driving in France, such as the need to carry a warning triangle, spare bulbs, and a high visibility safety vest, and these rules should be observed to ensure a stress-free journey. French law prohibits drivers from carrying any device capable of detecting speed cameras, including products or devices able to warn or inform of the location of speed cameras.

A typical penalty for drink-driving in France is a  €135 (£116) fine plus penalty points. Those guilty of an "aggravated" offence - and that's with blood/alcohol levels above the current UK limit - can face up to €4,500 (£3,900) in fines and two years imprisonment.

Current drink-drive blood alcohol limits in Europe are as follows (mg per 100ml of blood):

UK  80mg

France  50mg

Germany 50mg

Ireland  50mg

Belgium 50mg

Netherlands 50mg

Poland  20mg

Norway 20mg

Sweden 20mg

Czech Rep 0mg

Russia  0mg

(Figures are guidelines only and drivers are recommended to check the latest regulations before travelling.)