New laws for drivers in France

Are you thinking of driving abroad this year?  If so, make sure you are up to date with the new laws for driving in France.

British holidaymakers will have to carry  breathalyser kits  in their vehicles when they visit France from next  weekend.

It is the latest headache for  drivers  in the country who are already penalised for not having a luminous safety vest  or a warning triangle in the car.

And road safety campaigners  in the UK  have warned that the French government-approved breathalysers – which cost from £3 – are actually of little use in gauging whether a driver is over the  drink-drive limit.

Headache: MoS reporter George Arbuthnot with obligatory motorists kit for travel to France which now includes a breathalyser kitThe law is being introduced to encourage  drinkers to breathalyse themselves before driving. The French drink-driving  limit is 50mg of alcohol in 100ml of blood, which equates to a large beer or a  glass of wine.

This is much lower than the 80mg limit in the  UK. 

Drivers who are caught without a breathalyser  kit face a fine of £9 but there will be a period of grace until November. The  breathalyser requirement brings the total cost of the mandatory kit required in  France to £40.

The French government has approved two  breathalyser kits –  a cheap blow-in-the-bag tester that costs £3 and  digital versions  that cost more than £100.

DO THE £3 BAGS REALLY  WORK?

The£3 blow-in-the-bag breathalyser approved  by the French authorities was tested by The Mail on Sunday in an unscientific  experiment. Our reporter drank a half  litre of Stella Artois beer, the amount expected to take you to the French  drink-drive limit. He then waited 20 minutes for the alcohol to reach his  bloodstream.

Following the instructions, he blew up the  plastic bag and inserted the tube containing yellow crystals. He then squeezed  the bag, forcing  the air up the glass vessel.

The alcohol in his breath was supposed to  react with the crystals, turning them green, and if the drink-drive limit had  been reached, enough would change colour to cross a red line drawn around the  vessel. But there was no change.

After another 500ml Stella,  a third of  the crystals turned light green but the red line was not breached. But he had  now drunk double the limit.

After a third beer most of the crystals  turned a dark green and crossed the red line, indicating he was over the  approved amount. When he checked the result with an £800 police kit it read 53mg  of alcohol in 100ml of blood –  just over the French limit, suggesting the  bag is accurate.

With the cheap version, users force the air  into a tube containing yellow crystals. These crystals turn different shades of  green depending on the degree of alcohol detected.

But Chris Deith of AlcoDigital, one of just  two UK distributors of the French government-approved breathalysers, said that  the technology was outdated.

‘Blow-in-the-bag breathalysers were first  approved in the UK for police use in 1969 and they are not sufficiently accurate  to determine whether you are under or over the limit on the night you do the  drinking,’ he said.

‘The only thing they are useful for is  determining whether you have alcohol in your system at all. It takes  considerable experience to be able to tell the subtle colour difference in the  powder before a passed or failed test. The more accurate digital versions cost  hundreds of pounds, which tourists are not willing to pay.’

The AA’s head of road safety, Andrew Howard,  also raised  concerns about the delay between alcohol being consumed and it  registering in breathalyser tests.

‘We have always criticised post-drinking  self-tests,’ he said. ‘After you have had your last swig of alcohol, your  reading will continue to rise for 40 minutes. You can pass the test in the pub  and fail it at the road block shortly after.’

Motorists found with 50mg to 80mg of alcohol  in 100ml of blood in France face a £108 fine and could gain six penalty points  on their licence. If a driver registers above 80mg, they could be fined £3,626,  lose their licence and be sent to prison for up to two years. Police will use  their own breathalysers to perform a roadside test.

Motorists also face £108 on- the-spot fines  for not carrying a luminous safety vest, a warning triangle, headlamp  converters  for driving on the right and a GB sticker or number plate with  EU logo.

And since January, satnavs capable of  detecting speed cameras were also banned in France. Those caught can be fined £1,208, even if the device is not in use.

 

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