The French government announced officially on Thursday that all cars must carry a single-use breathalyzer kit from July 1st.

"/> The French government announced officially on Thursday that all cars must carry a single-use breathalyzer kit from July 1st.

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Government confirms new breathalyzer law

The French government announced officially on Thursday that all cars must carry a single-use breathalyzer kit from July 1st.

Government confirms new breathalyzer law
Geraint Rowland

The move, which has been widely reported for some time, was made official in a decree on February 28th and published on Thursday.

“Every driver of a motorised land vehicle, excluding mopeds, must possess an unused and immediately available breathlyzer,” said the decree, published in the official gazette (“Journal Officiel de la République Française”).

Transport ministry officials told The Local that the rule would apply equally to vehicles from outside France.

July and August are busy months on the French roads as millions of French people and tourists head for their holiday destinations.

A fine of €11 ($15) will be charged to anyone not carrying the breathalyzer kit, but police have been told to start fining only from November 1st.

The new law is the latest attempt to reduce France’s road accident rate.

Around 4,000 people died on French roads in 2011, a very slight improvement on the figure for the year before.

Drink driving is believed to be responsible for one in three road deaths.

The government hopes having a kit in the car will allow people to test themselves and to give them the means to test others if they suspect they are over the limit. 

The legal blood alcohol limit in France is 0.5 grams per litre.

The single-use tests cost between €0.50 and €1.50 and manufacturers are rushing to produce enough to meet expected demand.

President Nicolas Sarkozy promised the measure in November in the hope of slashing drink driving, responsible for 31 percent of fatal road accidents.

Disposable breathalysers have been available in French bars and nightclubs since then.

New coaches have been equipped with breathalyser tests that prevent drivers starting the ignition since January 2010. The devices are to be installed in all coaches by the start of the 2015 school year.

A total of 3,970 people died on French roads in 2011, down barely 0.5 percent or 22 lives compared to 2010.

When Sarkozy came to power in 2007 he set the government the ambitious target of reducing annual road deaths to 3,000 by 2012.

The new breathalyzer requirement will be added to the existing rules compelling drivers to carry a warning triangle and a fluorescent safety vest. Failure to have these in the car can lead to a €90 fine.

More information is available, in French, on the website of the government road safety agency, Sécurité Routière.

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French national park bans alcohol over the summer months

A French national park has banned alcohol over the summer months after a spate of accidents.

French national park bans alcohol over the summer months
The gorges of the Ardèche are known as the 'French grand canyon' Photo: AFP

The gorges of the Ardèche region – a national park in southern France very popular with hikers, campers and canoeists – has banned alcohol from the campsites and the river until September 30th.

“Hikers and boaters are prohibited from keeping alcoholic beverages for consumption in the bivouacs of Gaud and Gournier [the only areas where camping in the gorges is permitted] and on the river domain,” said the order issued by the Préfect of the Ardèche.


The area is very popular for canoeing. Photo: AFP

The temporary order began on May 1st and runs until September 30th.

The ban is intended to “put an end to the many accidents caused by drunkenness”, the préfecture told FranceInfo, which also specifies that regular checks will be carried out and that non-compliance with this order will be subject to sanctions.

Over previous summer seasons fighting, dangerous behaviour and drunken accidents have become a problem for police and park warders in the area.

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