France ponders breathalysers in clubs

It is possible that from this summer, all alcohol serving establishments in France will have breathalysers so people can take breath tests before they leave clubs. 350 bars/clubs around the country have already had trial runs.

In France, the legal drinking age is 16 and you can get a driver’s license when you are 18. For years, the country has seen people killed on the road because of drunk driving and this decree is particularly to reduce the number of people driving when over the limit.

Solving the problem by focussing on keeping the roads safer as opposed to controlling alcohol consumption seems more practical, keeping in mind that France has one of the highest rates of road fatalities in Europe.

In principle the idea is great, but how can you force people to take breath tests before leaving? When youngsters drink and drive, they know what they are doing and their over-confidence that “nothing is going to happen” is what lets them drive home instead of taking public transport. So what will make them take a breath test? Will they put someone at the door who makes them do it before they leave? Will it be free to use?

A bar in Boston has taken a similar initiative into their own hands by selling a device called “Breath Scan” in their vending machines — two for US$7. It looks like they are selling, which is at least reassuring.

But once they’ve taken the test, what’s to say that they will still not drive home?

In Dubai (where the population is 70% Westerners from Europe and the US), drink driving is a huge problem — even though the limit is zero and the punishment is a month of jail plus a fine! Such rigid rules haven’t discouraged people from drink-driving, so although France’s initiative is great, I’m not sure how effective it will be.