Update:  March 2013.  The French government has announced an indefinite postponement of fines for motorists and motorcyclists who do not carry a breathalyser kit.  However, it is still recommended that you abide by the rules.  If you plan to drive in France check for updates on the law before you leave.) 

A new law requiring drivers to carry a personal breathalyser kit when driving in France goes into effect on 1 July 2012.  Foreign drivers caught without a breathalyser in the vehicle will receive a caution the first time, but after November can expect to receive a fine of €11 (about £8.80).  It is up to the driver to check they are within the legal limit before getting behind the wheel.

If you plan to take a road trip across to France (and on to other countries in Europe) or just generally driving in France,  it would be wise to plan and read up on the rules of the road to avoid fines and penalties.  The driving laws in France and throughout the EU are different and often stricter than in the UK.

The breathalyser kits are available to buy on ferries and inexpensive to buy in France, but don’t leave it until the last-minute as supplies will be in demand.  Do your research ahead of travel.  The new law applies to motorcyclists as well as motorists and also rental vehicles.  The breathalyser kits must comply with French regulations, indicated by “NF” on the label.  Beware of purchasing products that may not comply.  The FCO advises carrying at least two breathalyser kits so that you have one to use and a spare to show the police if stopped.  Be ready for random checks when using the Channel Tunnel or ferry ports.

The Foreign Office reports that, as of 4 January 2012,  driving laws in France are stricter, with increased penalties for various offences.  It is compulsory to carry equipment such as a reflective jacket (within reach, not in the boot), GB sticker and warning triangle in the vehicle.  Sat-nav devices that warn of radar/speed cameras and radar detectors (whether in use or not) are illegal in France and many other countries.  Speeding in France could result in serious on-the-spot fines and even confiscation of your driving license and vehicle.

If you fancy a beer une pression or two, or enjoy apéritifs in France remember to use the breathalyser, arrange for a designated driver, or play it safe and call un taxi.  The new law should, hopefully, make the roads safer.

You don’t need us to remind you to carry your EHIC, check the expiration date of your European breakdown cover, and take out adequate travel insurance.  Always pay a visit to the website of the Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) for the latest travel advice.

Bon voyage et bonne chance. Oh, yes, and if you must… Santé!

Flickr cc Image: alison e dunn

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