Lifestyle & Belief

French law forces drivers, including tourists, to carry breathalyzer kits

PARIS, France — The price of breathalyzer kits has soared in France, ahead of a new law that requires all motorists to carry them – including tourists, the Liberation newspaper reported.

As part of a crackdown on drink driving introduced by former president Nicolas Sarkozy, drivers will be obliged to carry "at least one" personal breathalyzer after July 1.

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While a government road safety campaign says the move is intended to "promote self control" when getting behind the wheel after having had a drink, opponents say manufacturers and distributors of breathalyzer kits are being made rich.

Motorists in France may choose choice between reusable, electronic breathalyzer kits, that retail from about 100 euros, or the chemical and disposable variety, which in theory can be bought for as little as a euro.

But French media are reporting shortages across the board, with chemical breathalyzers either sold out entirely or retailing for several times their value.

Adding to the scandal, France 24 television reported that Daniel Orgeval, the president of the road safety lobby group that persuaded the Sarkozy government to adopt the law also works for Contralco, one of two manufacturers whose breathalyzer kits meet the required government standard.

According to France 24, Contralco was experiencing financial problems before the law was approved in March last year – but it's now producing as many as five million breathalyzer kits a month, and has taken on more than 100 staff.

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Orgeval defended himself Wednesday, telling Europe 1 radio that the move was always about road safety – and if it helped to create jobs for a French company, "then so much the better.”

Despite the new law, motorists operating vehicles larger than 50cm3 (this includes small scooters) can breathe easy with the knowledge they have until November to get used to carrying a breathalyzer kit, before fines of 11 euros are introduced.