France, breathalyzers in cars

It has been a legal requirement to carry an NF approved breathalyser in France since the 1st July 2012, with a proposed date for implementing a fine of €11.00 for non-compliance due to start on the 1st March 2013.

The Automobile Club de France has confirmed that the €11.00 fine has now been postponed indefinitely; however, the requirement to carry a breathalyser is still included in the French Highway code (decree number 2012-284).

The alcotest (or breathalyser or "éthylotest") must:

  • Be in date, according to the validity date stated on it by the manufacturer
  • Bear the manufacturer's hallmark or the mark of conformity in accordance with French law

The driver of a vehicle equipped with an alcolock fitted by an approved installer will be considered as complying with the law.

Drivers who are in doubt about their alcohol level will be expected to self-test before driving off. The alcotest is for single use only so some drivers might prefer to have several at their disposal or to purchase an electronic breathalyser.

The police can carry out checks on drivers and ask them to present their driving licence, the registration certificate of the vehicle and items of compulsory equipment. The alcotest will be added to the list. It was intended that a driver who cannot present an alcotest would be fined, but as of 28 January 2013 the French Ministry of the Interior announced an indefinite delay regarding the application of fines and a modification of the law was published on 1 March 2013.

In practical terms, a motorist is still required to have an alcotest in his/her vehicle and has to be able to present it to a police officer on request, but he/she will not be fined if he/she does not have one.

View information on buying breathalyzers in the UK. They are often available at car ferry and Eurotunnel terminals, and on board ferries too.

If you want to purchase your breathalysers in advance you can buy them direct from Amazon- find out more

View a list of French distributors. These include, among others, the major supermarket chains Auchan, Carrefour, Casino, Cora and Monoprix.

You can read more helpful advice about travelling and camping in France here.