By on August 29, 2012

On July 1, all 37 million car owners in France were required to spend 2 Euros for a disposable breathalyzer to be kept in their vehicles at all times. Failure to do so will result in a fine of 11 Euros. Lest you think this is a weak attempt at a parody of the French and their love of wine, go here.

French officials claim this law will reduce drunk driving deaths, even though the law does not require drivers to ever actually use the device. The government’s rationale is that inebriated individuals will “think twice” before driving when they catch a glimpse of their breathalyzer.

The public is outraged, not only by the sheer silliness of the mandate. It turns out the new law was driven by good old-fashioned government corruption.

A gentleman named Daniel Orgeval is an executive of Contralco, the only breathalyzer company in France and one which will likely garner up to 90% of the breath tester biz.  He also heads up an anti-drunk driving group called I-Test, the organization that led the lobbying effort to get the law passed. Amazingly, Orgeval never hid his association with Contralco from France’s Parliament.

The details of who Orgeval paid off and how much was shelled out have yet to surface, but you can bet they will.

Let the jokes begin….

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40 Comments on “Tales From The Cooler: France Forces All Drivers to Buy Breathalyzers. This Is Not A Joke....”


  • avatar
    mkirk

    Ah….nevermind…rest of the article loaded.

  • avatar
    Polar Bear

    What next, will the French be made to give up the mistress?

  • avatar
    chuckrs

    The French are pikers. The Greeks know how to do it.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/19/world/europe/in-greece-business-rules-can-puzzle-entrepreneurs.html?pagewanted=all

    Isn’t big and intrusive government wonderful?

    I can’t find a link, but I think the Greeks also have a lake commission that has been constituted for 70 years to oversee a lake that doesn’t exist.

    • 0 avatar
      racer-esq.

      Even the Greeks are weak sauce. I heard of a country that spent well over $1 trillion, probably $2-3 trillion with legacy costs, to invade and destabilize another country based on allegations of weapons of mass destruction that did not exist. I can’t remember its name right now.

      • 0 avatar
        MeaCulpa

        Hey that invaded country was a hot bed for religious terrorism and had never been friends – never ever – with the invading country.

      • 0 avatar
        racer-esq.

        Well, first that is not true. Hussein put down religious extremism, especially from Iran-sympathizing Shias, because it was a threat to his secular control. And don’t make me get out the picture of Rumsfeld shaking hands with Hussein. The US and Iraq were BFFs in the ’80s, Iraq even fought a war for the US http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Iran%E2%80%93Iraq_War . Things did not turn sour until Iraq invaded another dictatorship, Kuwait, because Kuwait was slant drilling into Iraq’s oil reserves. That led the US into the foreign application of an antitrust injunction known as the Persian Gulf War. That war, given its limited aim of preventing the anti-competitive acquisition of Kuwait, and not the complete destabilization of Iraq, was arguably a success.

        Second, IF those things are justifications for a war then Saudi Arabia should have been invaded first. It actually is a hot bed for religious terrorism. 15 of the 19 September 11 hijackers were citizens of Saudi Arabia, zero of Iraq. Also, Saudi Arabia has never fought a war against Iran for the US, so I would consider it much less of a friend.

        But what are we talking about? Not a non-existent lake in Greece or non-existent weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. But a €2/$2.50 per driver government cost for a breathalyzer. The numbers I’ve seen for Iraq are ~$8,000 per US citizen, so I would consider that a bargain for the French. As I mention below, I am highly suspicious of any legislation lobbied for by a company, but I imagine this has a decent chance of coming out positive in cost benefit analysis.

      • 0 avatar
        MeaCulpa

        @racer-esq.

        I thought the sarcasm was obvious but it wasn’t I’m afraid.

      • 0 avatar
        chuckrs

        “But what are we talking about? Not a non-existent lake in Greece or non-existent weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. But a €2/$2.50 per driver government cost for a breathalyzer.”

        And when I use the breathalyzer, can you guarantee that 1) its accurate and 2) that my BAC won’t continue to rise and still leave me afoul of the law a few kilometers down the road? Do you suppose there might be a mandarin bureaucracy set up to oversee this mandate? Should it be extended EU-wide, will the blotto truck drivers coming off the Baltic ferries even be able to find their lips with the business end of a breathalyzer? I think the Finns used to be serious about DD enforcement and maybe they still are. I think that remains the way to go.

  • avatar
    aristurtle

    Didn’t France pass a law saying that you need a high-viz vest in your car at all times, you know, just in case?

    The single-use breathalyzer seems slightly less ridiculous. Only slightly, of course.

    Next stop: emergency ham sandwich required in car at all times. Just in case.

    • 0 avatar
      Polar Bear

      But it can not be ham. Have to be nice to the minorities.

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      Yes, and a spare set of bulbs, and I imagine a first aid kit as well. The last is required in many European countries. All seems perfectly reasonable to me, and I have all of the above in my daily-driven cars.

      At 2 euros for a Breathalyzer – why not? MUCH cheaper than being nailed for a “just over” OUI, and while I have no idea what France’s legal BAC is, I suspect it is “not much”. When I went to Finland last summer, the Police breathalyzed every driver coming off the ferry from Sweden…

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        “When I went to Finland last summer, the Police breathalyzed every driver coming off the ferry from Sweden”

        Those ferries are party boats. Alcohol is heavily taxed in Sweden, so the bars and duty free shop on the boat are very busy.

      • 0 avatar
        krhodes1

        Yes, they certainly are. I got to drive a ’66 Saab Monte Carlo off the boat and to our group meeting place because the owner did not feel he could pass the test. Having been awake for 36hrs or so with about a 2hr catnap, I slept through most of the partying. :-)

      • 0 avatar
        MeaCulpa

        Ah the Swedish/Finnish ferries (depending on direction of travel), where oh so many unwanted children have been conceived, so many STDs been passed, so many marriages ended and so many noses broken.
        If you are interested in Baltic sea ferries and Alcohol they are however only the second best place to go, the ferries coming to Sweden from the Baltic states or Poland are far better. The truck drivers with blood alcohol approaching lethal levels seems to be a weekly occurrence.

        The Hi-Wiz and the bulbs is what I would consider smart legislation, taking steps to prevent crimes and accidents instead of punishing people when things go tits up.

      • 0 avatar
        Cody

        Why not? What if I don’t drink and would rather buy a candy bar?

    • 0 avatar
      Geekcarlover

      Sure, you mock “just in case”, but how many of you spent your teen years with a rubber in your wallet, you know, “just in case”?

  • avatar
    vagvoba

    Remind me, how is it corruption?

    A company makes a product and its executive tries to sell it through a phony campaign. According to the article, no money ever ended up in politicians’ hands. That’s not his fault that the government actually agreed with him.

    What is corruption? When a bank pays for a politician’s election campaign in order to secure billions in bailout money.

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    Wait, are we supposed to be complaining about how Europeans are better drivers, have safer roads, are better prepared, maintain their cars, roads and such now? I thought that was a good thing.

    Maybe I didn’t get this week’s Angry Old White Guy memo..

    • 0 avatar
      Pch101

      Get off of my lawn!

      That being said, Contralco was on the brink of failure until this law passed. Shockingly, Contralco is now swamped with business and has been hiring employees because there are only two companies on this planet that produce breathalyzers that comply with the rule, Contralco being one of them.

      The French press has been griping about this for several months. TTAC is actually pretty late to the party with this one.

  • avatar
    Junebug

    Gee, I thought carrying a roll of toilet paper was all the extra prepareness one needed.

  • avatar
    el scotto

    Usually, and ironically, the Europeans have stricter drunk driving laws than we do. This is a scam; but really Henri needs two or three of these, keep testing until he’s legal to drive. Or just call a cab. Anyone who drinks has driven when they shouldn’t have, myself included.

    • 0 avatar
      iainthornton

      You’re right. I remember reading that the UK and Ireland have double the drink-drive limit of ANY other EU country, and that many countries are zero tolerance. I believe all of Scandinavia as well as Romania and probably others.

      • 0 avatar
        MeaCulpa

        No, Sweden and Norway has a limit of 0.02% and Denmark 0.05% alcohol blood level content. In Sweden your license is revoked for 1 to 36 moths if you’re caught, if your license is revoked for more then one year you’re forced to re-earn your license, if you exceed 0,1% you’ll go to jail for up to two years.

    • 0 avatar
      outback_ute

      You need 2 minimum if you ever intend to test yourself – so you still have one afterwards.

  • avatar
    redav

    Surely they have expiration dates, which means it will need to be replaced. To make sure it gets replaces, it will need to be inspected. Or, I could see a cop asking for license, proof of insurance, & breathalyzer.

    “The government’s rationale is that inebriated individuals will “think twice” before driving when they catch a glimpse of their breathalyzer.”
    - If I had to have this in my car, it would get tossed in the glove box never to be seen again.

    • 0 avatar
      el scotto

      DUI roadblocks, extra funding for “DUI Task Forces”, high risk insurance, MADD, cops looking for drunk drivers, hoping they have drugs too. It ain’t like it used to be where a buddy and I would split a six pack driving to a hot bar.

  • avatar
    racer-esq.

    This may be an incredibly rare circumstance where corporate lobbying led to a good result. 2 Euros is nothing, and this is going to stop some drunk people from driving.

    I am not going to spend time researching this (reading this article already took more than 2 Euros of my time), but based on this article it looks like this law is neutral with regard to what company someone buys one of these from. Contralco may have 90% of the market, but as long as there a no barriers to entry like patents, etc., that is going to change very quickly.

    Without a doubt these circumstances merit heavy suspicion, and investigation of any illegal payoffs, as opposed to legal lobbying efforts.

    • 0 avatar
      Pch101

      “it looks like this law is neutral with regard to what company someone buys one of these from.”

      The law requires that the breathalyzers comply with some particular standard.

      As it turns out, there are only two companies on earth that make breathalyzers that comply with that particular standard. (The second company is a South African firm that is not expected to get more than just a small slice of the business.)

      So it’s not as if just any portable breathalyzer will do. This law effectively says, “Thou shalt buy a Contralco breathalyzer.”

      And the law doesn’t just affect the locals. Drivers driving in from other countries will also have to buy them. Since France is a sort of crossroads country, there will be plenty of other Europeans who also end up buying this particular brand of breathalyzer.

  • avatar
    ClutchCarGo

    Beyond being a boondoggle, this is also likely to backfire. Some years ago, Aussie bars were installing breathalyzers to allow patrons to check if they were good to drive before leaving. They started pulling them out once patrons took to competing to see who could blow the highest reading.

    • 0 avatar
      BMWnut

      I once took part in such a contest during my student days. I vaguely remember that my reading was somewhere north of 0.4% but the exact number got lost in the mist of a very bad hangover. Someone else did the driving, since even walking in a coherent fashion was beyond my abilities on the night.

  • avatar
    lightbulb

    A good idea but they really could have gone further with this law. They should have mandated a built in Breathalyzer that prevents a intoxicated person from starting the vehicle. While this would be a far more expensive idea the government could subsidize the cost for people who can’t not afford it.

  • avatar
    Geekcarlover

    If I’m pulled over and the police officer’s breathalyzer says .12 and mine says .06, is mine admissible in court? If not, what’s the purpose?

  • avatar
    H Man

    Sacre blow?


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