French bar owners cautiously back breathalyser tests
Late-night customers of French bars will have to take breathalyser tests before they leave the bars.13 May 2008
PARIS - French bar owners on Monday cautiously backed a government proposal to make breathalyser tests mandatory for their late-night customers from this summer, but warned the measure would be costly.
Ecology Minister Jean-Louis Borloo at the weekend unveiled plans to provide cafe and bar owners with breathalysers for patrons to check their alcohol blood content before getting behind the wheel.
"We are ready to take part, but we must be careful to ensure that this measure does not take on proportions that are hard to manage financially, especially for smaller establishments," said Francis Attrazic, vice president of the French hospitality industry group UMIH.
Coming on the heels of a smoking ban that went into force in January, the measure to combat drunk driving could translate into hefty costs for bar owners, Attrazic told AFP.
He said the devices cost between EUR 2,500 and 3,500 each.
"We have just gone through the smoking ban and already we are lunging into alcohol-related problems," he said.
Borloo told France 2 television that the government planned to submit a decree to the state council, France's top administrative body, on Tuesday to test the legality of imposing the breathalyser tests.
But he added that he hoped every bar that is open until around 2 a.m. in France could provide the digital breathalysers starting this summer to screen customers before they stumble out the door.
The minister said the measure had been put in place in some 350 bars and cafes in western France and that industry officials were in favour of it because "they too are conscious" of the problem.
Borloo's remarks came after another deadly holiday weekend on French roads, with at least 17 fatalities in seven accidents reported, some of them alcohol-related.
The government last week launched a new campaign to reduce deaths from road accidents.
March was a particularly deadly month on French roads, according to government statistics which showed a jump of 7.5 percent in the number of fatalities from the same month last year.
A total of 342 people were killed in car accidents in March compared to 318 in 2007 and the increase was attributed to drunk driving.
[AFP / Expatica]