France Breathalyser Law


Do I need to take a breathalyser kit to France? 

The short answer is no not anymore. The long answer is an interesting question because unlike the other items you're legally required to have with you, there is no fine anymore for not having a breathalyser.

Still most UK drivers and motorcyclists take them with them as we are a law abiding lot. The French on the other hand have just totally ignored the law since it came into force.

So is it really worth the trouble of taking them? Well if there is zero penalty why take them? Well 

There are some hefty on-the-spot fines of up to £135 for not having other items so you really should have those. (See the full list of items required & the fines for non-compliance here).

In all honesty this French Breathalyser law has been a bit of a joke from the start and I've written a guide to it below.

Recap of the law changes so far

Around July 2010 was when I first heard they were looking to introduce this as a legal requirement. It wasn't concerned parents of children killed by drunk drivers that were lobbying the Sarkozy government but a driving pressure group called I-Care headed up by Daniel Orgeval who apart from heading up this pressure group is also a director of a company called “Contralco”.

Now Contralco, low and behold, make "breathalysers" and were at this time one of only 2 companies in the whole of France that were authorised to make the NF approved breathalysers. That must have been a stroke of luck that this law being passed meant all 30 million French drivers (not to mention travellers from abroad like us) would now be forced into buying their product.

With just the 2 small companies making these disposable breathalysers  they just simply could not meet the demand. Therefore the date that the law was to be introduced and the date from which fines would start to be issued for not carrying them just kept getting put back over and over again.

Breathalyzer France.JPG

March 2011 was originally to be the date then it got moved to July then November etc etc.

Then Sarkozy lost the French election in May 2012 and the new government quickly kicked the legislation into the long grass as although they knew the new law was ridiculous they didn't want to scrap it altogether.

One thing that swayed them was the fact that these disposable breathalysers in France are susceptible to extremes of temperature and if left in a cars glove box on a very warm day (you get those in France) they would cease to work so they would be rendered useless.

At the height of the supply and demand issues people were buying them off me and selling them on Ebay at £20 a packet. That made me realise how daft people could be, as the fine for not carrying them (which never actually came into force at any time) was only 11 euros. 

People around this time were asking me if they should buy them and I was saying NO, as "it's cheaper to pay the fine which incidentally hasn't come into force yet" but they were just ignoring me and buying them anyway.

Us Brits we are so law abiding it's almost comical. 


So what's the latest?

Well they keep saying they will remove them from all legislation but they have been slow to do so.

You will not get fined but still most British drivers like to take them. 

In January 2013 – the French government officially said that the introduction of a fine for not having an unused breathalyzer with you (which was to be €11) has been postponed indefinitely.

Even now people still buy them, and they will continue to do so as they'd rather have some in the car if they get stopped as it's just one less thing the French police can pick fault with.

If you would rather take some then here is a link to our NF Approved breathalyser kit.

To see all the items that you MUST take in your vehicle, that do carry on-the-spot fines for not having them, see our Driving in France Checklist.

Twin Breathalysers France 4.95.jpg



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