Why You Need A Breathalyser When Driving In France

When driving in France, things are a little different as you might expect, and there are certain items that you have to carry by law. This includes reflective jackets and a warning triangle, as well as the need for headlight converters if you’re driving your own vehicle.

You can read more about the items you need when driving in France in our dedicated article.

One of the things that jumps out is that French driving legislation dictates that you must carry a breathalyser in your vehicle. This isn’t just the case for Brits driving in France but actually for everyone, including the French.

Read more: The Most Bizarre Driving Laws Around The World

In fact, you should really carry two breathalysers – so that if you have to use one, you still have one in your car.

The legislation stating that all drivers in France need a breathalyser in their car was announced on 1st March 2012, coming into power the following November. This was after lobbying from a driving pressure group called I-Care, which was fronted by a man who, coincidentally, was head of one of the two companies who made the breathalysers – the more cynical of you might deem there to be some ulterior motive there!

Nevertheless, the law was passed, meaning those two companies had to produce enough breathalysers for over 30 million drivers. The proposed fine for not having a breathalyser in your car was set to be €11, but with the manufacturers struggling to meet demand, the introduction of the fine was postponed.

French road signs


Then came the 2012 French general election, and Nicolas Sarkozy, whose government passed the legislation, lost to François Hollande. Then in 2013 Hollande’s new government postponed the introduction of the fine indefinitely, which means that there is actually no official punishment for not having an unused breathalyser in your vehicle.

Do you really need a breathalyser when driving in France?

If there’s no fine for not having a breathalyser in your vehicle, do you really need one? Well, yes is the answer. Whilst you may not be given any specific fine for not having one, you’re still breaking the law if you don’t.

This means that should you be stopped by the French authorities for whatever reason and they decide to check what you do and don’t have, they could make life difficult for you if you don’t have the right kit.

You won’t be fined, but it can take up your time and be a potentially sticky situation, particularly if your French isn’t that good.

They’re not expensive, so it really is best to take one with you just to be safe. The breathalysers you have must be NF approved, like the AlcoProof ones we sell here at Ignitionline…

AlcoProof breathalyser needed for driving in France

Read more about the AlcoProof breathalyser testers.

For your reference, here are the drink drive limits across the Channel.

Drink driving limits in France

Drink drive limits differ from country to country, so it’s important to be aware of the subtle difference depending on where you are.

In France, the drink drive limit is 0.5 grams per litre, lower than the 0.8 in the UK. However, if you’re a new driver (passed within the last three years), then the limit is lowered to 0.2 grams per litre, the same applied to bus and coach drivers. This lower limit means you shouldn’t even risk having one drink, although of course our advice is that if you’re driving, you shouldn’t drink alcohol at all.

The limit for new drivers was lowered a couple of years ago due to the fact that a shocking 25% of young driver deaths were directly related to alcohol over the previous two years.

If you have any questions regarding driving across Europe, check out our comprehensive guide.