Tourists, be careful of that long, idyllic lunch in Provence with a glass of vin rouge, because the French Government has a new trap to fine unwary foreign drivers.
In a rare example of a country being stricter on drink driving than Australia, it has become the first in the world to demand all car drivers carry their own breathalyser or face a €17 fine – and a dispiriting telling-off by the country’s blue-uniformed gendarmerie.
While some road-safety experts have questioned the useful benefit of mandatory breathalysers, it adds to the already dizzying array of compulsory gear drivers must carry in France, which also includes a reflective safety jacket, a set of warning triangles and a spare set of bulbs for the headlights and indicators.
The French enacted the rule in July last year with little warning to the countries surrounding France (which supply most of its car-bound tourists) and have been enthusiastically enforcing it ever since, to the consternation of British, Irish and German drivers.
“Is it a good idea and, if so, should we be doing it here? To my mind: no, it is not,” Conor Faughnan, director of policy with the AA, told the Irish Times after complaints from Irish tourists.
“It is one of those cosmetic gestures that is hard to be against without sounding as if you are soft on drink driving. It sounds plausible and laudable, but I do not believe that it will bring benefits proportionate to its cost.
“First, self-testing tends to encourage people to drink right up to the limit. It promotes the notion that ‘I’m negative, so I’m okay to drive’, whereas the best advice is to avoid alcohol altogether.
“Second, there is a delay in the way the body processes alcohol. It is entirely possible to drink some alcohol, stop drinking, test negative and drive away only to find that you are above the legal limit half an hour later.”
“In any case, while a self-tester may be helpful for some people the morning after, that does not mean there will be a benefit to society from making them compulsory. I would take the view that for the vast majority of drivers they are unnecessary, and for the reckless willing to take risks with alcohol they are unlikely to be effective.”
In France, single-use breathalyser units can be bought for as little as €2, while the more-technical (and more accurate) multi-use units range in cost from €50 to €200.
Requests for a response to this article were directed by motoring.com.au to the respective NSW and Victoria ministers for police and emergency services. We have not been in receipt of a reply.