France finally scraps law forcing drivers to keep breathalyser kits in cars

A confusing law that has forced (at least officially) drivers in France to keep at least one disposable breathaylser kit in their car at all times has finally been officially binned by the French government.

France finally scraps law forcing drivers to keep breathalyser kits in cars

The law, which has always been surrounded by confusion and controversy, was first introduced back in March 2013.

Drivers were told they would need to keep at least one usable disposable breathalyser kit in their car and if they were stopped by police and found not to have one, they would be subject to an €11 fine.

But then the government of former President François Hollande decided to scrap the fines but still keep the actual law in place.

That meant drivers in France would not be punished when stopped by police but simply be “reminded of the law”.

But the confusion around the law should now be over after the French government's bill covering transport and mobility (Le projet de loi d'orientation des mobilités) was definitively adopted into law just before Christmas when it was published in the Journal Officiel.

The bill included an article saying the law obliging drivers to carry breathalysers has now been scrapped.

The government justified the move by saying it had not proven to be effective at cutting drink-driving, which is still one of the biggest causes of fatalities on French roads.

“The feasibility and effectiveness of this obligation have not been proven,” the government said when the move was first announced.

The Ministry of Interior told The Local that a decree will be published in the coming weeks from when the new rule will officially be applicable.

While the law was long forgotten about by most French drivers, motorists coming from Britain were still reminded of the “legal requirement” to buy the breathalyser kits when they cross the Channel.

Cross-Channel ferry company P&O have made announcements to alert passengers to the need to carry the kits in France and to let them know the approved breathalysers are available in the onboard shop for £5.99.

READ ALSO: Fake laws – The real rules for driving in France you need to know

Breathalyser kits still flying off the shelves in the shops of P&O ferries. The Local

The breathalysers themselves state on the box that “from 1st March 2013 all vehicles travelling in France MUST, by law, be carrying NF approved breathalysers”, without mentioning that drivers would not be fined.

The Local

They also reminded drivers the kits go out of date so they need to be replaced.


There was much controversy when the law was first brought out in France when it emerged the head of the lobby group demanding the government introduce the requirement was an executive at one of the companies licensed to make the breathalysers.

French governments over the years have been under pressure to cut the number of deaths on the roads linked to alcohol.

In 2018, 3,259 people died on French roads, although that number is set to rise in 2019. Alcohol is believed to be responsible for around one third of road deaths in France.

Eradicating a culture of drinking alcohol before driving has proved difficult in France. In a 2016 survey a quarter of drivers admitted drinking before getting behind the wheel.

French driver's still think only a little alcohol then only a little danger', the head of the company behind the survey told The Local at the time.

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.

“In the UK it's become shameful to drink and drive but in France it is still accepted.

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

Even though the obligation to keep breathalysers in the glove compartment will soon disappear, that's not to say drivers shouldn't think about keeping one or two at hand.

Indeed the new law forces shops that sell alcohol at night to make sell the disposable breathalyser kits.

Chasseray, from 40 Millions d'automobilistes told The Local that he would advise British drivers to keep them in their cars so they can use them to know if they are over the limit or not.

Not least because the drink drive limit is lower in France than in the UK.

France has very strict drink driving laws . You are allowed a maximum of 0.5mg/ml of alcohol per litre in your blood, compared to 0.8mg/ml in the UK. Although for young drivers in France the limit is even lower – 0.2 mg/ml.

A statement from the RAC motorist organisation in the UK said: “The best advice is to never drink and drive, whether driving in France or elsewhere. For any driver that still chooses to, it still makes a lot of sense to carry a portable breathalyser to check they are well below the relevant legal limit.”

Anyone using a breathalyser kit should do so one hour after their last drink because the level of alcohol in the blood stream continues to rise. They should also know that it can take up to 14 hours after the last drink for the body to be clear of any traces of alcohol.

If you have between 0.5 and 0.8mg of alcohol in your blood you could be fined between €135 to €750 and lose 6 points off your licence. 

Since 2018 motorists convicted of drink-driving in France have the option of installing a permanent breathalyser in their cars known as “ignition interlock device” or éthylotest anti-demarrage or face losing their driving licence.

Some 1,500 have been fitted in cars in France.


Ethylotest – breathaylser kit

un rappel à la loi – reminder of the law

une amende – a fine

un côntrole – a police stop




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What to do if you are hit by an uninsured driver in France?

Nearly 23,000 people across France were involved in a road accident with an uninsured motorist in 2021 - so here is what you need to know about being compensated in this situation.

What to do if you are hit by an uninsured driver in France?

For Julien Rencki, the head of the victims solidarity insurance fund, estimates that there are a little less than one million uninsured drivers on French roads, and he expects the number of incidents between uninsured and insured drivers to grow once more.

“In the first six months of 2022, we had already taken care of 15,000 victims, including more than 5,000 with physical injuries,” Rencki told French daily Le Parisien.

So in the not unlikely event that you are hit by an uninsured drover, what should you do?

First, you should check to see whether you are insured “against all risks” with your vehicle insurance. If so, your insurer will be required to compensate you for both injury and property damage.

READ MORE: Seven need-to-know tips for cutting the cost of car insurance in France

You should also check to see whether your plan with your insurance company has a “defence-recovery” clause (this would cover the cost of legal proceedings in the event of a dispute). 

However, if you have a partial coverage plan (in French this is: assurée qu’au tiers) and you are not entitled to compensation with your insurance company, then you can still be entitled to compensation thanks to the victim’s fund (FGA) – an association that exists to provide compensation to victims, including those of road accidents in scenarios where the perpetrator was uninsured.

In fact, if you or the passengers in your car were injured and the police intervened, and it was noted that the person responsible was uninsured or fled, then the officers would have been required to send a report to the victim’s fund. You would be able to access this on their website HERE.

To apply for this financial assistance, you will need to fill out a claim form, and provide identification as well as a copy of the police or gendarmerie report. If you do not have the latter, you can also send a copy of the accident report, as long as it was signed by both parties, or an accident statement with witness signatures. This will serve as proof that you were not at fault in the accident.

You have up to three years to appeal to the FGA.

If you are given an offer for compensation, then you can either accept or refuse it. 

READ MORE: Driving in France: Understanding the new French traffic laws

The rules on car insurance in France

In France, motorists are required to have third-party insurance, and anyone who drives without insurance risks penalties, such as a fine of up to €3,750, a licence suspension for up to three years, or the confiscation of your vehicle. Penalties may be more severe depending on how long the person is proven to have driven without a licence. 

Additionally, for the motorist without insurance, if they are responsible for an accident, they can still be required to pay the victim’s fund if indemnities are paid to the victim. These fees can amount to several thousand euros.

Vehicle insurance companies are seeking to find ways to encourage the uninsured to sign up for plans, as many cite high costs as the reason they do not have insurance. 

For instance, in September, several insurance companies set up ‘inflation packages’ to help young or unemployed drivers afford car insurance, reported Le Parisien.