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DRIVING

France officially scraps law requiring drivers to keep breathalysers in the car

France has formally published the decree scrapping the obligation for all drivers to keep a breathalyser test in their car.

France officially scraps law requiring drivers to keep breathalysers in the car
Photo: AFP

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.

READ ALSO Speed limits, pollution stickers and car pooling – what changes for drivers in France in 2020?

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.

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SCHOOLS

‘Section internationales’: How do France’s bilingual secondary schools work?

For foreign parents in France looking at secondary school options for their children one option to consider is the bilingual 'international sections' in certain state schools. But how do they work?

'Section internationales': How do France's bilingual secondary schools work?

What is an ‘international section’

Essentially international sections in French secondary schools allow students to learn a modern foreign language, such as English or German in much more depth than a standard state secondary. These sections also facilitate the integration of foreign students into the French school system.

There are about 200 ‘International’ establishments (primary schools, colleges and high schools) around France offering international sections in 16 languages.

Most are state run, so for many foreign families they are a much cheaper alternative to private schools, though it should be noted that some of the international sections are fee-paying.

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Even state establishments can charge for enrolment into their international sections. Fees are usually in the region of €1,000 to €2,000 per year (although that’s still cheap compared to somewhere like the American school of Paris which charges between €20,000 and €35,000 a year)

American and British sections are particularly popular – and, as a result are usually the most expensive, while less-popular German sections are less costly. 

Why do they exist?

These sections are ideal for the children of immigrant families, as well as those where one parent is of foreign origin. Syllabuses are set up and developed by French educational authorities and those of the partner country.

In addition to lessons dedicated to modern languages, students benefit from lessons in another subject given in a foreign language. The international sections promote the discovery of the culture and civilisation of the countries associated with the section.

Top tips for raising a bilingual child in France

What languages are available?

According to the government website, 19 languages are available. But that’s not strictly accurate as it then lists American, British and Australian as separate ‘languages’, along with Portuguese and Brazilian. It’s more accurate to say these establishments offer education in 16 languages.

It’s more accurate to say that there are 19 “sections”, dedicated to learning with a linguistic and cultural education slant in favour of the following nations/languages:

American, Arabic, Australian, Brazilian, Chinese, Danish, Dutch, English, Franco-Moroccan, German, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Norwegian, Polish, Portuguese, Spanish, Swedish, Russian.

In total, there are two Australian schools, 20 American ones, over 50 British schools – most in Paris and the Ile-de-France (Versailles is very popular)

So, what’s studied – and what qualifications do you get?

As well as usual collège-level classes in core subjects, such as maths, history and the sciences, students have four hours of classes in the language, including literary studies, of their choice.

From troisième (age 14), an additional two hours of classes per week cover that country’s history and geography and moral and civic education – the latter is replaced by maths for those studying in Chinese sections.

They can obtain the diplôme national du brevet with the mention “série collège, option internationale”. The dedicated brevet includes two specific tests: history-geography and foreign language.

At lycée, students study four hours of foreign literature per week, as well as two hours of history-geography in the language of the section (maths for the Chinese section) as well as two hours of French as they study towards an OIB (option internationale du bac), often at the same time as a standard French bac.

How to enrol

The first step is to contact the collège you wish your child to attend. This should take place no later than January before the September rentree you want your child to go to the collège.

If you live in France, and your child is attending an école primaire or élémentaire, you should do this in the January of the year they would move up to collège.

Be aware, that some schools require potential students to pass a language test – written and oral – before they can enter an international section. A child wishing to enter sixth grade must be able to read books of the level of Harry Potter in English, to enter the international school of Sèvres’ British section, while another has said that only 20 percent of candidates achieve the grade that would allow them entry into an international section.

Find a school

You will find sections internationales de collège at educational academies across the country. For a full list, with contact details, click here.

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