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Drink-driving in France
French drivers still think 'little alcohol, little danger'
Photo: AFP

French drivers still think 'little alcohol, little danger'

Ben McPartland · 19 Apr 2016, 11:24

Published: 19 Apr 2016 11:24 GMT+02:00

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The annual survey into French driving habits carried out by Axa insurance revealed the French are actually becoming more conscientious drivers.

They are looking at the phones less while driving, speeding less as well as drinking less alcohol before getting behind the wheel.

However, some of the statistics still give cause for concern.

Some 23 percent of drivers said they had got behind the wheel of the car after drinking “two glasses” of an alcoholic drink, although it doesn’t specify whether those drinks were wine, beer or perhaps cognac.

The figure of 23 percent is actually a slight fall on the 28 percent who admitted to the same bad habit in the previous year’s poll.

Some four percent of drivers admitted to downing more than four glasses of an alcoholic drink, compared to six percent the previous year and a staggering 14 percent in 2004.

"When it comes to drink-driving, or at least having four or more glasses before getting behind the wheel, this is where the French have made the most progress in recent years," Axa's Celine Soubranne told The Local.

"But we still see a number of them drinking small amounts, because they still don't see any danger in it, even it it still means their awareness is reduced.

"They still think 'little alcohol, little danger'," Soubranne said.

Despite the fall, the figures will still be a of huge concern to authorities in a country where more and more people are dying in road accidents each year.

'Alcohol second cause of death on roads'

Alcohol is the second leading cause of road fatalities in France – the first one being speed – and is responsible for around 10 percent of road deaths in France, the total of which last year stood at 3,464.

Last year the French government cracked down on drink driving among young people by reducing the legal limit from  0.5 grams/litre of alcohol in their bloodstream to 0.2.

Previous surveys have suggested the problem is even more worrying with the culture of drink-driving in France proving hard to extinguish.

According to a 2014 study titled “Going out, drinking alcohol and driving: the French take too many risks”, 27 percent also claimed they had ridden in a vehicle even though they thought the driver was over the limit and 29 percent said they had driven with more than the legal 0.5 grams/litre of alcohol in their bloodstream.

Seven in ten people in France go out at least once a month, the vast majority (83 percent) of whom drink alcohol when they do go out socially.

Perhaps most alarming is that 78 percent of people who do head out to party do so by car and 49 percent go home by the same means (29 percent of passengers too).

'Drink-driving not yet socially unacceptable like in UK'

The head of France's leading motorists group says France has failed to make the same progress as the UK.

"In contrast to the UK, drink-driving is not yet socially unacceptable in France," Pierre Chasseray, the head of driver's group "40 million d'automobilistes" told The Local previously.

Story continues below…

"In the UK it's become shameful to drink and drive but in France it is still accepted. For the last 40 years the government has done nothing to tackle this problem even though it is the main cause of deaths of France's roads.”

"The government needs to put in place a policy to prioritize reducing the levels of drink driving. In France up to now the authorities have been obsessed by cracking down on speeding, because it brings in money through speeding tickets.”

Tuesday’s latest Axa survey also revealed that the French did not feel too safe on the country’s roads, particularly on the smaller “routes nationales” and “routes départementales” and in towns.

Some 41 percent said they did not feel safe on two-way roads and 47 percent said the density of traffic in towns and speeding drivers, also made them feel unsafe.

READ ALSO: Why is drink-driving still 'acceptable' in France?


Ben McPartland (ben.mcpartland@thelocal.com)

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