Drink-Driving in France 2024: Laws, Limits, Penalties

Drinking and driving in France

In France, driving is prohibited for standard drivers who have a blood alcohol content (BAC) level exceeding 0.05% (50 mg of alcohol per 100 ml of blood).

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.

What is the legal alcohol limit for driving in France?

In France, the legal alcohol limit for driving varies depending on the category of the driver. These limits are set to ensure safety on the roads and reduce the risk of accidents related to impaired driving. Below are the specific legal BAC limits for each category of drivers:

  • Regular Drivers: 0.05% BAC (50 mg of alcohol per 100 ml of blood)
  • Novice Drivers: 0.02% BAC (20 mg of alcohol per 100 ml of blood), applicable to drivers with less than three years of experience
  • Professional Drivers: 0.02% BAC (20 mg of alcohol per 100 ml of blood), including those operating buses and coaches

These limits reflect France’s commitment to road safety, with stricter controls for those new to driving or responsible for the safety of passengers.

Drink and Drive Penalties and Punishments in France

France takes drink-driving offenses seriously, with penalties and punishments designed to deter such behavior and ensure road safety. The legal Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) levels and corresponding sanctions have evolved, with the standard drivers’ limit set in 1995 and stricter regulations for novice and bus drivers introduced in 2015. Here’s a summary of the penalties based on the BAC level:

  • BAC Level 0.02% (20 mg/100 ml of blood)
    • Fines: €135
    • Penalty Points: 6 out of 6
    • Driving Ban: Novice drivers in their first year must retake 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 years and possible vehicle seizure.
  • BAC Level 0.08% (80 mg/100 ml of blood)
    • Fines: Up to €4,500
    • Penalty Points: 6 out of 12
    • Driving Ban: Up to three years and possible vehicle seizure.
    • Jail Time: Up to two years.
    • Rehabilitation Courses: Mandatory road safety course at the offender’s expense.
    • Alcohol Interlock Program: Participation required for up to five years.

Refusing a blood alcohol test incurs the same sanctions as having a BAC of 0.8g/l or higher.

Rehabilitation & Alcohol Interlock Programmes

Introduced in 2019, following a successful trial in 2018, France has implemented an alcohol interlock rehabilitation program. This program is an alternative to license suspension, proposing to offenders the option of driving with an alcohol interlock. In 2020, nearly 11,000 drivers were offered this option. The device may initially be installed for up to one year, with the possibility of extension up to five years by judicial decision.

Participants must install the alcohol interlock at their own expense and undergo a medical-psychological evaluation. The costs include a purchase price of approximately €1,300 or a rental fee of €100 per month, plus installation and operating expenses.

Additionally, since 2015, buses and coaches in France must be equipped with alcohol interlocks, with specific regulations ensuring the safety of public transport, especially for children.

These measures aim to reduce recidivism and enhance road safety, with compulsory installation for repeat offenses since January 9, 2018.

Always Stay Updated

Laws and regulations regarding drink-driving in France are subject to change. We highly recommend regularly checking the official state’s website for the most current information and updates on drink-driving penalties, punishments, and preventive programs. This ensures compliance and promotes a safer driving environment for everyone.

How Can I Calculate If My Alcohol Blood Limit Is Legal in France?

In France, the police determine a driver’s Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) level primarily through breathalyzer tests at roadside checks or following an incident. These tests are designed to quickly assess whether a driver is over the legal alcohol limit. For a more precise measurement, blood tests may also be conducted, especially in cases where breathalyzer results are contested or when an accident has occurred.

As an experienced phlebologist with over ten years in the field, I recommend two methods to personally assess your BAC level, ensuring you remain within France’s legal limits:

  1. Use a High-Quality Alcohol Breathalyzer:
    • Based on my professional experience, the BACtrack S80 stands out for its reliability and accuracy. It’s a Professional-Grade Breathalyzer that is DOT & NHTSA Approved and FDA 510(k) Cleared, making it one of the most trusted devices on the market. I strongly advise keeping one in your vehicle. This recommendation stems from observing that individuals often misjudge their level of impairment. The BACtrack S80 can provide a clear and accurate reading, helping you make informed decisions about your ability to drive safely.
  2. Utilize My BAC Calculator:
    • Alongside fellow phlebologists and with the assistance of web developers, I’ve created an online BAC calculator. This tool has been designed based on extensive knowledge of blood alcohol concentration dynamics and considers various factors that influence your BAC, such as weight, gender, the amount of alcohol consumed, and the time elapsed since drinking. You can find the calculator online and use it as a guideline to estimate your BAC level.

It’s important to remember that while both the BACtrack S80 breathalyzer and our online BAC calculator are useful tools for estimating your alcohol levels, they cannot guarantee 100% accuracy due to individual variances in metabolism, food intake, and other factors. However, they serve as valuable resources in helping you make responsible decisions regarding driving after consuming alcohol.

By utilizing these tools, you can gain a better understanding of your BAC level and avoid driving when you might be over the legal limit of 0.05% for standard drivers in France. This proactive approach not only ensures your compliance with local laws but also significantly contributes to road safety for everyone.

Ways to Avoid Driving with a High BAC in France

Drinking wine and drive in France

Driving with a high Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) level not only poses a risk to your safety but also to others on the road. Fortunately, there are convenient alternatives to driving under the influence in France that can help you avoid the legal and safety risks associated with drink-driving. Here are two practical recommendations:

  1. Utilize Taxi and Ride-Sharing Apps:
    • In today’s digital age, accessing a ride home after drinking has never been easier. Apps like Uber offer reliable and quick options to get you home safely without the need to drive. Additionally, local taxi companies in various cities provide excellent services. For example, in Paris, you can opt for “Taxi vtc Paris 18,” while in Marseille, “BEST TAXI MARSEILLE” is a trusted option. These services are not only convenient but also widely available across most urban and suburban areas of France.
  2. Order a Designated Driver Service:
    • If you’ve driven to a location and find yourself unable to safely drive back due to alcohol consumption, consider using a designated driver service. These services send a professional driver to drive you and your car back home. In Paris, “THE BOUTIQUE CHAUFFEUR SERVICE | PARIS” offers such services, and in Marseille, you can rely on “PROVENCE CLASS DRIVER.” To find a designated driver service in your city, a quick Google search for “designated driver service” along with your city’s name should provide you with several options. This way, you can enjoy your evening without worrying about leaving your car behind or compromising on safety.

By planning ahead and choosing alternatives to drink-driving, you can ensure a safe end to your night out in France. Whether it’s calling a taxi or booking a designated driver, these solutions provide a responsible and practical way to avoid driving with a high BAC, thereby contributing to your safety and that of others on the road.

Sticking to Drink and Drive Laws in France

Alcohol-related traffic deaths constitute a significant portion of road fatalities in France, with the European Transport Safety Council (ETSC) estimating that 32% of all road deaths in the country in 2020 were alcohol-related. To combat this, it’s crucial not to drive after consuming alcohol and instead opt for alternative transportation methods such as designated driver services or taxis.

Abiding by France’s drunk driving laws is essential for safety. Before deciding to drive, ensure your Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) level is within legal limits using an alcohol breathalyzer. Carrying a certified breathalyzer is not only a precaution but a legal requirement in some scenarios, helping avoid potential penalties.

For the latest information on drink-driving regulations and to ensure compliance with the law, visiting France’s Bison Futé’s official website is recommended. Remember, driving impaired greatly increases the risk of losing control, endangering both yourself and others on the road. Opting for alternative transportation can significantly reduce the risk of alcohol-related incidents.

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.