France introduces in-car breathalyser that can disable motor

Drink drivers will have to blow into the breathalyser to start their vehicle.

French motorists convicted of drink driving will be allowed to continue using their vehicles by fitting them with a breathalyser machine under a new decree.

The new machines will stop the vehicle motor from starting if the driver has been drinking.

The interior minister, Christophe Castaner, approved the move after a year-long trial of the scheme in seven French departments.

Until now, drink drivers could lose up to six points on their driving licence – in France drivers start with 12 points on their licence, which can be deducted by a maximum of six for each offence – but faced no automatic ban. Once all 12 points are lost, the licence is suspended for six months.

The scheme gives courts the power to order drink drivers convicted of a first offence and with a blood alcohol level of between 0.8 and 1.8 g/l, to install the breathalysers at their own cost, estimated at more than €1,300 to buy and install or €100 a month to rent, for a maximum of six months.

This period could be extended to up to five years by a magistrate who can also impose a maximum fine of €4,500.

Drink drivers will have to blow into the breathalyser to start their vehicle. They will then be required to blow a second time – randomly set at between five and 30 minutes later – to ensure they remain under the alcohol limit and limit the chances of drunk drivers asking someone else to blow into the breathalyser.

The government said the aim was to ensure motorists convicted of drink driving who needed their vehicles for professional reasons could continue to work.

Dr Philippe Lauwick, president of the health committee at the National Council for Road Safety, said the new test was a “very useful tool in the fight against repeat offending”.

More than one in five road accidents in France are caused by drink driving. In 2017, 1,035 were killed in accidents involving drivers who were over the alcohol limit.

The move comes just weeks after the death toll on French roads was found to be increasing. There were 3,448 deaths in 2018 compared with 3,456 the previous year. In the UK, the number of road deaths for the same period was 1,770.

The article above was written by Kim Willsher and was published in The Guardian on 14th March 2019.

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