UK defends drivers from EU penalties

Britain will fight fresh attempts by the EU to send fines for motoring offences committed abroad

12 October 2014
By

BRITAIN will fight fresh attempts by the EU to send fines for motoring offences committed in other countries to addresses in the UK.

Britain, Ireland and Denmark opted out of a recent law allowing EU police forces to share details of the owners of foreign vehicles, enabling them to issue fines to addresses in other countries.

However this law has been contested on technical grounds and overturned by the European Court of Justice – with a replacement law being drafted that will apply to all 28 member states with no possible opt outs.

The old law was drafted as a police cooperation measure, allowing opt-outs, but the replacement will be set on road safety grounds that are already agreed in the EU Treaty, signed by all 28 states.

Despite being overturned, the existing law will remain in force while the replacement is drafted.

A Department for Transport spokesman said: “The UK is not bound by the existing directive. Our priority is to protect the interests of British drivers and we will resist any changes which penalise our motorists.”

At the time the first law was passed, UK Tran­sport junior minister Mike Penning said the UK “broadly supported the measure” but added that it was wrong in targeting registered keepers and not drivers, wrong in not facilitating the exchange of driver’s details and wrong for levying fines when UK research showed it was the fear of losing a licence that deterred drivers.

The current law relates to eight offences where the driver was not immediately stopped by police. It includes the four “big killers” which cause 75% of road deaths – speeding, ignoring traffic lights, failure to use seatbelts and drink-driving. It also covers driving under the influence of drugs, failing to wear a crash helmet, driving in a forbidden lane and using a mobile phone.

UK Tory MEP Timothy Kirkhope, party spokesman on justice issues, told the BBC: “The UK decided on balance it was not in our interests to take part as the directive prosecutes vehicle owners, rather than the offending driver, and it seeks to implement fines when other deterrents – such as points on a licence – may be more effective.”

“If the Commission brings forward a similar piece of legislation then we will oppose it when it reaches the European Parliament,” he added.

The law is seen in France as ending the impunity of foreign drivers, with 3.8million speeding offences committed by foreigners in 2013 and Interior Ministry figures showing a total of about 400,000 offences by UK-registered vehicles.

Currently, UK drivers caught breaking French traffic laws can be penalised while in France, but not once they have returned home.

French fines collection agency Antai said it had only exchanged vehicle data with four countries – Belgium, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Switzerland, all countries with which it has concluded separate bilateral treaties.

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