Drinking and Driving in France: Legal Limits & Penalties


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Drinking and Driving in France: Legal Limits & Penalties

France is renowned for its gastronomy – fine foods, fine wines, fine Cognac, and much, much more. Many of us enjoy meeting up with friends for lunch or an evening meal. Wine often comes as an integral part of many ‘plat du jour’. With all this temptation, moderation is called for when being the designated driver. So, what exactly are the rules?

What is the Legal Blood/Alcohol Limit in France?

France has very strict rules regarding permitted alcohol levels in the bloodstream, and they are It is different to regulations in other countries, so don’t assume it’s the same as what you are used to.

The legal limit is 0,5g of alcohol per litre of blood. If you are a young driver or driving on a provisional licence, this is reduced to 0,2g of alcohol per litre of blood – meaning that, essentially, any alcoholic drink could put you over the limit.

So, how much can you safely drink? Everyone is different and whether or not a person would be over the legal limit depends on many factors such as gender, medical history, weight and size; whether you have eaten; and the time elapsed between consuming the alcohol and driving. That said, a standard measure of wine could be enough to tip some people over that legal limit.

It is also worth noting that the size of the glass used is important as this determines how much you have actually consumed. For example, not all wine glasses are the same size.

The drink itself matters as the alcohol by volume (ABV) differs depending on the alcoholic drink. Some craft and IPA beers can be very high in alcohol content, and so can some very quaffable wines.

What Are the Consequences of Drinking and Driving in France?

If you are found, during a police check, to have between 0,5gl and 0.8g/l, the penalty is a €135 fine, six points on your licence, and a possible suspension of your licence for up to three years (find out more about driving penalties and points in France).

Beyond 0,8g of alcohol per litre of blood, the penalty is a hefty fine of €4,500, six points on your licence, plus a suspension of three years or possible confiscation of your licence. There is also a possible prison sentence of up to 2 years in prison.

See the official rules here.

Drinking and Driving in France: It’s Not Worth the Risk

The fact is that alcohol impairs our reaction times and our judgements – this is beyond question, and no one wants to be responsible for endangering the lives of others. Arguably, it is simply not worth the risk. With the legal blood-alcohol limits set so low in France, many people choose to remain alcohol-free if they are driving.

If you have had a drink and wish to find out whether you are legally able to drive, it’s a good idea to take a self-administered breathalyser test before you drive your car. Pharmacies, Tabacs and other establishments such as late-night bars sell alcohol breathalyser tests. While it is no longer the law to have to carry these in your car, it’s highly recommended – after all, it could save someone’s life.

Driving in France

Whether you own a car in France, travel to France in your UK or EU-registered car, or hire a rental car – FrenchEntrée has all the need-to-know info about driving in France. Our Essential Reading articles will take you through buying, registering, and insuring your car, as well as offering tips and advice on driving and car ownership in France.

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Carol, a teacher from Hurworth in Darlington, lives in Charente in South-West France, where she runs La Grue Gites with her family.