New French law: breathalysers required in all cars, even rentals

By John Walton, July 3 2012
New French law: breathalysers required in all cars, even rentals

If you're renting a car in France, be warned: you need to check that a third piece of ostensible safety equipment -- a breathalyser -- is present, or risk a fine.

Breathalyser kits are required in every French car as of 1 July 2012, though the fine for not having one won't be imposed until 1 November, since France hasn't been able to manufacture enough of the things in time.

Avoid the hassle of getting a lecture now (or a fine from November) by adding it to your mental list of things to check when you pick up a rental car in France -- or with the intention to drive into France from a neighbouring European country.

The blood alcohol test options are either an electronic or chemical type, and the type most likely to be used by rental car companies resembles a plastic bag with a tube on the end.

You'll need at least one unused breathalyser in the car to stay within the law. 

Drivers in France are already required to have a fluorescent high-visibility vest and a warning triangle, with police particularly delighting in pulling over foreign-registered cars to check, and adding to the French Treasury if either is missing.

Yet French rental car companies are notorious for not checking that the emergency equipment -- legally required and, frankly, a pretty good idea anyway -- is present before handing the car over to you. So we always check that it's in the glove compartment or boot as we glance round the car for dents and dings.

In case you need to ask for a breathalyser at the rental counter, you're looking for un éthylotest, pronounced eh-teel-oh-test.

John Walton

Aviation journalist and travel columnist John took his first long-haul flight when he was eight weeks old and hasn't looked back since. Well, except when facing rearwards in business class.

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