I don’t often go political, but today I feel the need. I’ve found out that from spring 2012 (forgive the  slightly vague date but there’s nothing more definite available yet) all motorists will be having to put something else in the car to join the gilet rétro-réfléchissant (reflective jacket) and the triangle de pré-signalisation (warning triangle), which are already there, on top of the carte grise (car registration document), insurance documents and ready-to-fill-in accident report. They will have to make room for an éthylotest – breath test kit. Yes, I was fairly incredulous too. If you don’t have one, you face a fine of anything between €11 and €17, according to which report you read. These little kits cost around €1. Ok, it’s not a vast expense, but it’s the principle of the thing. I use the car to go grocery shopping, to deliver and collect my daughter to and from the lycée bus and to go to committee meetings. None of these are occasions that involve alcohol, although I imagine food shopping would be more fun after a glass of wine. But the powers that be suspect me of hitting the bottle at every opportunity before sliding behind the steering wheel, and dictate I need this totally unnecessary piece of kit. I would no sooner drink and drive than I would sell the kids into slavery, however tempted by the latter I may be occasionally.

However, before I get carried away let’s look at this matter objectively.

Let’s look at the pro side first. Alcohol is the major killer on the roads, responsible for a third of all road deaths. Quite rightly the government wants to reduce this number of unnecessary deaths. The recent unpopular increase in the number of speed cameras has reduced the average speed of traffic by 10 kmh, and brought down the rate of fatalities arising from speeding. Could this new move have  a similarly positive outcome?

Now the anti side. The people who will buy the kit and actually use it are the people who are already sensible about drink driving and respect the law. Road safety organisations are saying this, not just me. So it’s unlikely to do any good in practice. Using the example of X, a drinking driver who lives near here and who has written off 2 cars during the 5 years we’ve known him, and whom we have pulled out of a ditch – he may possibly buy the éthylotest to avoid a fine, but the likelihood of him self-testing after a few drinks and nobly deciding to walk home as a result are zilch. Zero. Non-existent. How many people would? Maybe in towns where there is public transport, but not in the bus-free zone that constitutes the majority of rural France.

It’s clearly a compromise reached by some bureaucrats. It’s not going to work. The only effective way to stamp down on drunk driving is through policing. Put gendarmes out there to catch the culprits. We literally go for months on end without seeing a single cop. They need to be out there in all areas swooping on drunk drivers with the zero tolerance for them that I and the majority of responsible people have.

Right, time to put the soapbox away! Thanks for listening.