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Blog: Should Brits carry breathalysers in cars?

Car on a mapAll motorists in France have to carry a breathalyser kit in their car or face a fine, under new rules that came into effect on 1 July. Should the UK follow suit? 

This new legislation doesn’t just affect the French - it applies to all drivers visiting the country for a holiday or even on a day trip.

So Brits travelling to France this summer stand forewarned – carry a breathalyser kit in your car or face a fine of 11 Euros (around £9).

French alcohol limit lower

Even more important is the fact that the legal alcohol limit for driving is less in France than in the UK.

In France, any motorists found with between 50mg and 80mg of alcohol in 100ml of blood can be fined 135 Euros (around £112). 

Whereas, the legal limit for driving in the UK is 80mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood.

So motorists used to UK drink-drive limits need to be on guard when getting behind the wheel on the other side of the Channel.

The breathalyser kits in France cost between £1 and £2 and are available to purchase at ferry and tunnel terminals when crossing into the country.

The new law was introduced so drivers can make sure they are legal when they take to the road.

Should the UK follow suit?

Some motoring organisations have called for similar legislation to be introduced in the UK.

Research from roadside assistance firm Mondial Assistance UK, in March, found that 60 per cent of British motorists would welcome stricter regulation on the roads when it comes to drink driving.

"It is encouraging to see that such a high percentage of the motorists we surveyed would welcome an initiative in the UK similar to that enforced across France," said Lee Taylor at Mondial.  

"Recent drink-drive statistics show in the past decade there has been almost a 60 per cent increase in the proportion of morning-after drink drive accidents in the UK. 

"This clearly suggests people don’t fully recognise just how long it takes for their body to get rid of the alcohol in their system after a night out.   

"By carrying breathalysers, drivers would be able to check if they are safe to drive in the morning, which in turn will have a positive impact on reducing road traffic incidents.”

False sense of security

But motor lawyer Jeanette Miller, senior partner at motoring law firm Geoffrey Miller Solicitors, said handheld breathalysers aren’t accurate and relying on one could give motorists a false sense of security.

"Breathalysers are used by the police as a trigger to take motorists to the police station," Miller said.

"Once there, police carry out far more sophisticated and stringent tests to measure your breath, blood or urine alcohol level.

"These secondary tests are known as 'evidential', which means they can be used in court.

"But a handheld breathalyser test isn’t evidential - and that's because they aren’t that accurate."

Breathalysers 'inaccurate'

Miller added: "I travel to France often and I think it’s fair to say they have a much more cavalier attitude to drink driving there than we do in the UK.

"So I can understand why French authorities are using any method they can to crack down on drink driving. But in the UK, we’re much less likely to drink drive.

"That, together with the fact that handheld breathalysers aren’t accurate, means there's no need for motorists over here to carry them as a matter of course."

Driving laws abroad

Make sure you know the rules of the road when driving abroad. French officials have advised motorists to carry spare kits in their vehicles with them at all times.

Taylor says: "Time will tell if the UK does follow in the footsteps of our French counterparts."

But he adds that, in the meantime, it is crucial that drivers holidaying in Europe know the laws and regulations for the countries they are driving in.

"Rules can vary from one country to another so it is important that drivers take the time to understand them."

What do you think?

Should UK motorists have to carry breathalyser kits in their cars?

Better safe than sorry - is this a good way to crack down on drink driving, especially morning-after drink driving, which is easily done after a big night out? Or do you disagree?

We want to hear from you! You can share your views on the message board below. 

Naphtalia Loderick

Naphtalia Loderick

Naphtalia Loderick covers all things consumer for She started out on a weekly newspaper, via a national news agency and a stint in the fun but ‘not as glamorous as it appears on screen’ world of TV at the BBC researching consumer films for The One Show.

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