Drink-drivers in France will be able to avoid a ban if they install breathalyser "alcolocks" that prevent their vehicles from starting if they are over the legal alcohol limit.

Those convicted of the offence will have to blow into the breathalyser before the engine will start. They will then be required to blow a second time — set randomly at between five and 30 minutes later — to check that they are still under the limit, with the aim of preventing someone else starting the car for them.

The Government approved the measure this week after a year-long trial in seven French departments.

Drivers "lose" points from a total of 12 on their licence, and drink-driving incurs a penalty of six. For a driver to lose their licence for half-a-year, they must lose the remaining six points.

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The authorities will be empowered to order drink-drivers with a blood-alcohol level between 0.8 and 1.8g/l to install "alcolock" breathalysers at their own expense as an alternative to a ban.

First-time offenders may also be required to fit the devices, which cost more than €1300 ($2150) to buy and install, or €100 a month to rent. They would have to keep the breathalysers for six months, but courts may extend that to a maximum of five years. They may also face fines of up to €4500.

The Interior Ministry said that one of the aims of the scheme was to allow drink-drivers who used vehicles for their jobs "to continue working while guaranteeing the safety of other road users".

Philippe Lauwick, the head of the National Council for Road Safety health committee, said in-car "alcolock" breathalysers were "a very useful tool to combat repeat offending and prevent people being excluded from society because they lose their licence".

More than one in five road accidents in France are linked with drink-driving.

In 2017, 1035 people were killed in accidents involving drivers who were over the alcohol limit.

The scheme's introduction comes weeks after the death toll on French roads was found to be falling. Last year, 3259 deaths were reported, compared with 3448 in 2017.