Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Only in France...

Although I have been driving for more than 50 years and have driven in (at the last count) 13 different countries, I have been stopped by the police in only two.  One was Croatia or Slovenia - one of those Balkan countries that used to be part of Yugoslavia - and I was driving a camper van as part of a three vehicle convoy taking relief supplies to refugees in Bosnia, a Lions project.  I think the officers were so surprised to see a British vehicle that they stopped us just to make sure we were genuine.

I have, however, been stopped three times in France - once by Customs officers and twice by police.  Now, before anyone gets any funny ideas about my driving, I must add that French police (and Customs officers, for that matter) don't need a justifiable excuse to stop a car.  On all three occasions every car was being stopped.  Why the Customs were stopping cars 35 miles from the nearest Channel port - and hundreds of miles from the border with any other country - I never did understand.  But they still insisted on half turning out the car (I was driving back after a week working in our French house so had all sorts of tools and so on in the back of the estate).  After a few minutes they gave up and let me go.

Another time I was driving back from the local supermarket with the makings for lunch or some such when I was flagged down and asked to show my papers.  The officer neither spoke nor read English - or maybe that was just the impression he wanted to give - so I had to explain my driving license, insurance certificate and MOT certificate.  Again, I was very quickly waved on.

The third time was further down towards the centre of France, in the Dordogne, where we were staying on holiday.  It was approaching lunch time and we were driving towards a town where we had every expectation of finding a bar that would serve us a sandwich and a glass of wine when we, along with every other car on the road, were flagged down.  The young lady approached what she thought was the driver's door and was astonished to see no steering wheel.  It dawned on her that this was an English car and she came round to my side.  She asked me, very politely in broken English, to step out of the car and blow into a gadget, a gizmo.  That was the first breathalyser I had seen.  As I had drunk nothing but a glass of orange juice and a couple of cups of coffee that morning, I was confident of being well below the legal alcohol limit, and so it proved.

All that is merely by way of introduction to my passing comment that I must hie me to Halfords to purchase a breathalyser.  There is a new law coming into force soon in France (July, I think) under which every car will have to carry as part of its standard equipment, a breathalyser.  This is in addition to a first aid kit, a warning triangle, spare bulbs and high visibility jackets for every occupant - and a GB plate if the car is British.  Apparently, President Sarkozy has undertaken to reduce the number of deaths on the road in France and this is part of his campaign.  Drivers are being encouraged to carry two breathalysers so that if one is used, there will still be one in the car to comply with the law.  It is, of course, the retailers and manufacturers of the equipment that are encouraging the purchase of two breathalysers.  (Did you detect the note of cynicism in that last sentence?)  It seems they are only a couple of pounds each so maybe I will buy two just to be on the safe side.


The Broad said...

A breathalyser in the car, eh? Ooh! I can't wait to tell my husband!!!:-)

The Broad said...

A breathalyser in the car, eh? Ooh! I can't wait to tell my husband!!!:-)

Stephen Hayes said...

Where I live you only need to have a breathalyser attached to your car if the court orders it because of previous drunk driving convictions. The engine won't turn over if alcohol is detected.