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Driving and Autos: Driving Under the Influence

Drunk Driving Laws

The legal limit for drinking and driving in France is 0.5 grams per 1 liter of blood, or 0.25 miligrams per 1 liter of exhaled air in a Breathalyzer.

As of 2012, every vehicle in France with the exception of two- and three-wheeled vehicles with engines smaller than 50 cubic centimeters must carry an unused chemical breath test. These can be simple, disposable breath tests—not the top-of-the-line kind carried by police officers—and they can be purchased at most gas stations, car dealerships, supermarkets, and pharmacies.

The legal drinking age in France is 18, the same as the legal driving age.

Sobriety Test

If you are pulled over for suspicion of drunk driving, chances are you will be administered a Breathalyzer test. A random screening, in which case the road will be blocked and drivers will be tested as they pass, will likely use blood tests to determine drivers’ alcohol levels. Drivers are also tested as a matter of course if there has been a traffic accident in which someone was injured, or if a driving violation has been committed. A blood alcohol test can be administered even if you are not exhibiting outward signs of drunkenness.

If you refuse to have your blood alcohol level tested, you may face a serious penalty—the same as you would face if you were found to have a blood alcohol content of 0.8 percent. This includes a six-point deduction on your license, a suspension of your driver’s license, and fines. The only exception is for people who refuse because of a valid medical condition. 

Penalties for Driving Under the Influence

Penalties for drunk driving can range from a fine of €135, six points off your license, and a three-year suspension or cancellation of your license, to fines in excess of €100,000, long-term license suspensions, and serious jail time for more serious infractions and repeat offenses. See the Préfectures de Police website ( for more details. 

Drugs and Driving

French authorities sometimes carry out roadside saliva tests to determine the presence of marijuana, cocaine, ecstasy, heroin, and other illegal substances. If you get a positive result, it must be followed with a blood test to make sure the results are not a false positive caused by legal medications.

If you are convicted of driving under the influence of drugs, you may face a fine of up to $6,700 and as many as two years in jail. 

Social Attitudes Toward Drinking

Alcohol is a source of cultural pride in France, which has a strong tradition of viniculture. In general, a glass or two of wine is to be enjoyed with a good meal, and is considered an essential part of gustatory enjoyment and a good life.