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French ministers take "u-turn" on fines for drivers not carrying breathalyzers

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  1. Requiring drivers to carry a breathalyzer isn't a bad idea. It seems that would eliminate the common "but I didn't feel drunk" excuse if you could just breath test yourself. I wonder if there are any requirements on calibrating the machines. I can see drivers tampering with them and arguing that their BAC reading was zero, so they're fine.

    7 Replies
    1. re: Hobbert

      Forgive me for disagreeing with you, but in so far as I know the French law mandates drivers CARRY them, not USE them; and the mandated devices are of the cheap, disposable type, and can't be calibrated.

      I have seen too many clients with a BAC of .15, .22, .29, etc., who claim that a) they had no idea they were over the limit, b) they only had one drink, c) they were stopped only a couple of blocks from home (as if that made a difference) . . .

      1. re: zin1953

        Sure, there's no way to mandate people use a PBT. I'd like to think that many (some?) of the drivers I've arrested for DUI would have availed themselves of a quick breath test but I fear that's giving people too much credit.

        1. re: Hobbert

          I suppose it boils down to who's more cynical: law enforcement, or defense attorneys . . .

        2. re: zin1953

          >>"the French law mandates drivers CARRY them, not USE them;"<<<

          Not saying you should know the answer Jason, but what's the point then? So the police don't have to carry them?

          EDIT >>>>>>>> Just noticed sunshine842's reply below. "Follow the money!"

          1. re: Midlife

            and I'd forgotten the other fact -- that the owner of the company is related to one of the government officials -- a brother or brother-in-law or something similar.

            At the moment, the law is that you're supposed to have them in the car -- but there is no penalty for not having them, and the police cannot pull you over to search for them. (How's that for efficient bureaucratic process?)

            1. re: sunshine842

              J'aime l'aspect pratique du français!

      2. oh, there's lots, lots more to the story....so let's go back about 3 years, to a small factory in the southeast of France that manufactures disposable breathalyzer tests.

        About 2011, the company's products weren't selling, and there were mass layoffs, and the threat of bankruptcy hung heavy.

        About that time, the French counterpart to MADD (anti-drunk-driving) was lobbying long and hard to make it obligatory to carry an unused test in the car at all times (and because you might need to use one, this means TWO breathalyzer tests in the car).

        The bill made it through the French government, and was signed into law, with a fairly long grace period so motorists could have the chance to find and buy the tests.

        the bill also specified that the tests had to meet a certain standard -- and the only company in France that was meeting that standard was, taa-daa, the troubled little company mentioned above.

        Business was booming. They were able to hire back all the folks they'd laid off, and were even planning on new hires, and a new building.

        Then two ugly things happened.

        First, some independent testing was being done, and research wasn't good -- it was finding that the tests just weren't all that accurate, and the chance of being ticketed and prosecuted for a DUI that you didn't have coming was really pretty significant.

        Then, some meddling reporters started tracking down some interesting paperwork, and lo and behold, the guy who heads up the anti-drunk-driving organization JUST HAPPENS TO BE the president of the company making the tests.

        Ain't that a pisser?

        and Jason, you're correct -- you only had to have a current (not expired) test in the car -- there's no mandate to use them, and (get this) the original plan was for the authorities to use YOUR test, so the state didn't have to buy tests!