A decree published in the Journal officiel on May 21st confirms the change made in January and means that there is now no legal obligation for drivers to keep disposable breathalyser tests in their cars.
This finally brings to an end the confusing and contradictory rules around breathalysers which have existed since a new law was passed in 2013.
Drivers were initially 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”.
In January 2020 the government's wide-ranging transport bill (Le projet de loi d'orientation des mobilités) was officially adopted and it included – among many other measures – a clause getting rid of the breathalyser obligation.
While the law had been long forgotten about by most French drivers, motorists coming from Britain were still reminded as recently as January of the “legal requirement” to buy the breathalyser kits when they cross the Channel.
Transport operators have made announcements to alert passengers to the need to carry the kits in France and they have been on sale in Channel ports and onboard ferries.
The decree published on May 21st formally scraps the requirement for drivers, but toughens other regulations.
- From 2011 it has been obligatory for bars and nightclubs to provide customers with breathalysers on request – the fine for non-compliance with this regulation has now been set at €135.
- The maximum duration that drivers can be required to driver a car with an alcohol test ignition lock has been increased from six months to one year.
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.