Thursday, 31 May 2012

Drinking, Driving and Lobbying

As of the 1st of July, it will become a legal obligation in France to keep a breathalyser test in your car. The tests must be certified as conforming to the legal standards and not be past its expiry date.

Although I was surprised that the government was promoting drink-driving within limits as opposed to total abstention, I initially thought that the law was quite a good idea. Drink-driving is a major problem in France, with 31% of accidents being caused by alcohol, and has not yet become as socially unacceptable as it is in the UK. I've often seen French acquaintances have a few glasses of wine before driving home ... with their children in the back seat. It hasn't ceased to horrify my yet. But at the same time, the French way of drinking doesn't lend itself to a zero-tolerance approach the way the UK style does. Because drinking is slower, less excessive, and usually done at the same time as eating, it is possible to have a couple of drinks and still be within the limits when it's time to go home. Having a breathalyser test in the car might encourage drivers to make sure that they are, rather than hoping that everything will be OK.

A little while later, however, a motoring organisation published this letter alleging that the law had been written into the statute books as a result of intense lobbying by an organisation made up of representatives of a company that manufactures the tests, who will make 1 euro out of every driver in France and everytime a test is used ... or passes the manufacturer's recommended use-by date. Information I've read since suggests that some of the claims in the original letter are false, but the basic story seems to hold true and, in addition to what the letter itself says, it made me think twice about some things:

Firstly, I think it is quite offensive to suggest that people who never drink and drive on principle (including people who never drink at all, for example for religious reasons) should still have to buy the tests.

Secondly, surely the test is only useful if it's been used. In which case you won't necessarily have one sitting ready for the next time in your glove compartment to show the police when they pull you over.

And thirdly, there is my original doubt about the wisdom of suggesting that any drink-driving is acceptable, especially as the breathalysers apparently aren't that reliable.

My conclusion is that the law might not be a totally bad thing, but it's something of a red-herring in the task of actually tackling the problem. What do you think?


  1. Drink-driving is a major problem with 31% of accidents being caused by alcohol, and has not yet become as socially unacceptable as it is in the UK.Every time one gets behind the wheel of a car, or even rides in a car, there are all types of risks involved. So don't drink under the driving. For More details:- Drunk driving in new Mexico

  2. Eric, I totally agree with you, and I wish people's attitudes would change. I'm just not convinced that this law is going to do the trick ... unfortunately.