• In reaction to the accident caused by Pierre Palmade on February 10, the Minister of the Interior, Gérald Darmanin, said he was in favor of withdrawing the 12 points of the license in case of driving under drugs or alcohol.
  • A toughening of sanctions is a way of shaking consciences in the face of the risks of such behavior.
  • But the measure does not convince all associations and lawyers of road victims. Some experts on the subject fear an increase in the number of unlicensed drivers.

A news item, a law. During Nicolas Sarkozy's five-year term, several legislative measures were created after dramatic events. The Minister of the Interior, Gérald Darmanin, seems to be following in the footsteps of his mentor. The proof with the Palmade case. In the JDD, he spoke Sunday for a withdrawal of the 12 points of the license in case of driving under drugs, but also alcohol.

Intentions that have raised many doubts, even criticism from associations and lawyers of road victims. "We are in improvisation. It is opportunistic short-termism to satisfy public opinion who was shocked by the accident caused by Pierre Palmade, "says Pierre Lagache, vice-president of the League against road violence. "The minister wants to transform a news item into a fact of society by creating a legislative upheaval," adds Rémy Josseaume, a lawyer in road law.

A shocking measure to make an impression

Currently, driving under the influence of drugs is punishable by the loss of six points. Additional penalties may result in licence suspension for up to three years or cancellation of licence, with a maximum of three years of prohibition from applying for a new licence. The loss of the licence is automatic only in the event of a repeat offence. In addition, as the use of narcotics is considered a crime, the driver faces a fine of 4,500 euros and up to two years in prison. If he is at the same time under the influence of alcohol, he risks a fine of 9,000 euros and up to three years in prison. And if he is responsible for a bodily injury accident, he faces up to seven years in prison and a fine of 100,000. In the event of a fatal accident, he faces up to ten years in prison and a fine of 150,000 euros.

The fact of wanting to toughen the penalties is a way to shake consciences in the face of risks, because according to the latest figures from the National Interministerial Observatory of Road Safety (Onisr), 605 people were killed in 2021 in an accident involving a driver under the influence of drugs. In the same year, 598 drunk drivers were involved in fatal accidents.

"No need to strengthen the law, you just have to enforce it"

For Gérald Darmanin, the threat of an automatic license withdrawal could therefore have a deterrent effect on drivers who would be tempted to get behind the wheel after drinking or consuming drugs. Anne Lavaud, general delegate of the association Prévention routière, also believes: "This is a very appropriate measure. It would make it possible to change the social view of this type of behaviour. And to insist on the fact that driving is to make a decision every 5 seconds. A requirement incompatible with drugs and alcohol, which impair cognitive faculties. »

But other experts on the subject see it as an announcement effect. As Pierre Lagache says: "Sentences for driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol exist but are not often imposed. There is no need to strengthen the law, we just have to enforce it," he said. "The judge already has the power to cancel the licence of a traffic offender," comments Rémy Josseaume. Moreover, this measure would lead to the substitution of a technocratic regulatory power for the judge. And remove the possibility of individualizing the sanction." For example, the penalty can currently be more or less severe depending on the type of drug consumed, the blood alcohol level found...

According to the lawyer, this measure would also have a perverse effect: "It would lead to an increase in the number of unlicensed drivers." In 2021, the Onisr estimated that about 800,000 people in France took the wheel when they did not have the right. This is despite the risk of hurting someone and having to pay their whole life to compensate them.

Massively increase controls

If this systematic withdrawal of the license wanted by the minister does not create consensus, road experts agree on the urgency to multiply controls. "They need to be more massive and focused on the highest-risk moments, at night and on weekends," says Anne Lavaud. Gérald Darmanin promised on Sunday to increase controls from 800,000 last year to one million in 2023. Insufficient for Pierre Lagache: "It would represent about twenty controls per day and per department, the impact is not important enough". Especially since some motorists use applications like Waze to report roadside checks. "The police must be more stationed on small roads where wayers do not pass much and they must be more mobile," insists Anne Lavaud.

Strengthening prevention is also considered essential. "You have to go into institutions and businesses to talk about the dangers of drugs and drinking and driving. Communication campaigns are just as essential," says Anne Lavaud.

  • Pierre Palmade
  • Road safety
  • Gerald Darmanin
  • Drug
  • Driver's licence
  • Society