Drunk Driving Laws & Limits in France 2023: How Much Alcohol Can You Drink and Drive?

Drinking and driving in France

In France, standard drivers with a blood alcohol content (BAC) level of 0.05% (50 mg of alcohol in 100 ml of blood) are prohibited from driving. A BAC level of 0.02% and higher is considered a violation for novice and professional drivers, including bus and coach drivers. Violating the set BAC limits may cause penalties.

A 0.05% BAC level can be attained by drinking one to two standard alcoholic drinks, depending on a person’s characteristics, including weight and gender.

This article aims to educate and spread awareness about drunk driving in France. This site does not endorse or support impaired driving in any state or region.

According to ETSC (European Transport Safety Council), alcohol-related traffic deaths are estimated to account for 32% of all road deaths in France. In 2020, approximately 804 people died in alcohol-related accidents in the country.

Driving while intoxicated is hazardous. You should not drive if you have consumed alcohol. If you must travel after drinking, use a designated driver service, cab, or other transportation option.

It is critical to follow France’s drunk driving laws. If you must drive, check your blood alcohol level before taking the wheel. An alcohol breathalyzer can determine your BAC level accurately.

Always bring a certified alcohol breathalyzer with you when driving in France. Failing to produce one when requested may cause penalties.

We recommend checking France’s Bison Futé’s official website for more information about drunk driving limitations.

Legal Alcohol Limit When Driving in France

Upon consuming the initial drink, signs of alcohol intoxication may emerge, causing a hindrance in rational thinking and potentially prompting individuals to engage in actions they would not typically undertake when sober.

After consuming alcohol, it typically takes 30 minutes to 2 hours for it to enter your bloodstream. As a result, your respiratory rate may decrease, leading to difficulties in coherent thinking.

Alcohol consumption can result in slower reaction times, reduced reflexes, and modified perceptions of distance and speed. These effects can manifest even if you do not appear or feel intoxicated. 

Although the legal BAC limit in France is 0.05%, keep in mind that everyone’s reaction to alcohol is different.

The following factors influence your blood alcohol concentration:

  • gender,
  • weight,
  • hunger,
  • levels of stress,
  • alcohol consumption level, and
  • medication intake

It is recommended to assess your blood alcohol level before getting behind the wheel. Despite appearing sober, some individuals’ driving ability may already be affected by alcohol consumption. In some cases, individuals may experience trembling or even faintness after a few bottles of alcoholic drinks.

A BAC calculator and BAC chart can establish the quantity of alcohol you can consume before driving. However, since everyone reacts differently to alcohol, these tools may not be helpful or applicable to everyone.

The most accurate approach to determine your BAC is to use a certified alcohol breathalyzer.

Punishments for Drinking and Driving in France

BAC levels between 0.010% to 0.029% are unlikely to result in significant impairment. Individuals with this BAC often appear to be sober. As BAC levels rise, however, indications of alcohol-related impairment become more visible.

The laws of drunk driving change from one country to another. To avoid incurring fines and penalties, check your blood alcohol level before driving.

Drink-driving penalties in France are detailed below.

BAC Level 0.02% (20 mg/100 ml of blood)

  • Fines: €135 
  • Penalty Points: 6 out of 6
  • Driving ban: If the offender is still in their first year of driving, they must retake the theory and practice exams.

BAC Level 0.05% (50 mg/100 ml of blood)

  • Fines: €135 
  • Penalty Points: 6 out of 12
  • Driving ban: Up to three (3) years of driving ban and vehicle seizure

BAC Level of 0.08% (80 mg/100 ml of blood)

  • Fines: Up to €4,500 
  • Penalty Points: 6 out of 12
  • Driving ban: Up to three (3) years of driving ban and vehicle seizure
  • Jail Time: Up to two (2) years of imprisonment
  • Rehabilitation Courses: Offenders must take a mandatory road safety course at their expense 
  • Alcohol Interlock Program: The offender must participate in an alcohol interlock program for up to five (5) years.

Alcohol Interlock Rehabilitation Programs

An alcohol interlock rehabilitation program has been in existence in France since 2019. The program is offered to offenders with a more than 0.08% BAC.

The alcohol interlock device can be installed for one year, although the judge holds the authority to prolong its use for up to five years beyond that time.

When Can You Drink and Drive in France?

Several factors affect an individual’s blood alcohol concentration, including gender, which notably influences BAC levels. As per research, men and women have different BAC thresholds.

The levels of alcohol dehydrogenase (ADH) in men are considerably higher than in women. ADH enzymes are responsible for controlling alcohol metabolism, which enables men to absorb alcohol faster than women.

The information presented below can aid in calculating the amount of alcohol that can be consumed before driving in France. However, it is essential to note that individual reactions to alcohol can vary, and therefore, the suggested alcohol intake may not be appropriate for everyone, despite being based on research.

How Many Beer Bottles Can You Drink and Drive in France?

BAC charts indicate that a person with a lower body weight will have a higher BAC level.

For instance, if a male weighing 72 kilograms (160 lbs) drinks a 350 ml (12-ounce) beer, his BAC can reach 0.02%.

In comparison, a female of the same weight and drinking pattern could have a BAC of 0.03%, highlighting the impact of gender on alcohol metabolism.

Based on this example, limiting beer intake to one to two bottles is advisable if you plan to drive after.

How Many Wine Glasses Can You Consume and Drive in France?

Drinking wine and drive in France

A typical 142-milliliter (5-ounce) wine glass contains 12% ABV.

For instance, if a male weighing 72 kilograms (160 pounds) drinks one glass of wine, his BAC level can reach 0.02%, as demonstrated in the example above.

On the other hand, a woman with an equal weight consuming the same amount of alcohol may have a BAC of 0.03%.

However, these BAC levels can increase due to factors such as stress, an empty stomach, and medication use.

It is recommended to limit wine consumption to one or two glasses.

How Many Shots of Whiskey or Vodka Can You Drink and Drive in France?

Vodka and whiskey are types of distilled alcohol that typically contain 40% ABV.

After consuming one shot of vodka or whiskey, a male weighing 72 kilograms (160 pounds) can reach a BAC of 0.02%.

Similarly, a woman with the same weight and alcohol intake may have a BAC of 0.03%. However, BAC levels can vary depending on other factors.

It is best to limit your consumption of whiskey or vodka to one or two shots if you are going to drive after.

Sticking to Drink and Drive Laws in France

Driving while impaired with alcohol or drugs is dangerous. You risk losing control of yourself and your vehicle if you are high or drunk. Motorists should know the dangers of drunk driving and take every measure possible to avoid it. 

It is essential to exercise caution regarding your BAC and driving ability, even if you have only consumed a few glasses or bottles of alcohol. Instead of driving, it is advisable to consider alternative modes of transportation.

If you cannot avoid driving after drinking, ensure your capacity to do so is not impaired. Use a certified alcohol breathalyzer to determine your blood alcohol level before driving.

Check France Bison Futé’s official website for the most up-to-date information about drink-driving laws.

About the author

Ashley Cresswell

Ashley Cresswell is a former phlebotomist with a passion for road safety. During her time as a phlebotomist, Ashley administered over 1000 blood alcohol tests to impaired drivers and was shocked to discover that many of them were simply uninformed about the legal limits for driving under the influence. As a result, Ashley conducted extensive research on scientific studies and local laws to bring drivers a comprehensive resource on drink and drive limits from around the world.