French DUI Law: A Good Idea for Us?


July 1st marks the start of a new law in France. In this country noted for both its wine production and consumption, the new law will require all drivers to keep a disposable breathalyzer in their glove box. This goes along with the usual items you need to drive and without a breathalyzer, drivers will be subject to a ticket and, even worse, they won’t be able to drive their car away – arguably, getting towed may be even more of a penalty than the citation.

French legal limit more strict than in U.S.

The law is an attempt to address one artifact of how drunk driving is treated in France – “I didn’t know.” This is because they have a lower legal limit that we have in the US. In the States, we have a statutory limit set at a blood alcohol level of 0.08. In France, it’s set at 0.05, making some regular drinkers believable when they say they didn’t feel impaired.

So enter the disposable breathalyzers. These single use sticks work like a regular breathalyzer – users blow through a tube. The results appear on a color changing strip in a clear glass tube. Drivers are advised to carry at least two, although the law only requires one. The reasoning is that if you use one to check yourself, and you don’t have a spare, even if you come up under the limit, you still can’t drive because you’ve used your only test.

Commercial drivers have even stricter standards

Commercial drivers also have to carry these, but the laws are even stricter for these professionals. Their limit is set at 0.02% alcohol and they need a more accurate device.

While a DUI law in France may seem far away, US officials look at how these programs work (or don’t work) and make decisions based on the results. If this new law is effective in lowering the DUI rate in France, expect similar programs to be modeled after this one in the US. Legislators are keen to find ways to lower the current level of DUI and laws in this area are generally popular.

More on this can be found here.


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