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Driving For Members

EU countries to extend range of offences foreign drivers can be fined for

Claudia Delpero, Europe Street
Claudia Delpero, Europe Street - [email protected]
EU countries to extend range of offences foreign drivers can be fined for
The EU has agreed to extend the number of offences motorists can be fined for when driving in other EU countries. Photo by THOMAS SAMSON / AFP

The EU has agreed to extend the number of driving offences for which motorists from other member states can be fined for and to make it easier for authorities to chase up the fines and make foreign drivers pay.

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In the last voting session of this term, in April, the European Parliament passed new rules to ensure drivers who breach local traffic rules in another EU member state are found and fined.

The cross-border enforcement (CBE) directive was first adopted in 2015 after it was found that non-resident drivers were more likely to commit speeding offences. The European Commission estimated that in 2008, foreign drivers accounted for about 5 percent of road traffic in the EU but committed around 15 percent of speeding offences.

The directive partially improved the situation, but according to the Commission 40 percent of traffic violations committed in other EU countries are still unpunished “because the offender is not identified or because the fine is not enforced”.

In March 2023, the Commission therefore proposed updating existing measures.

New rules extend the type of offences that will trigger assistance from another member state and seek to improve collaboration among national authorities to identify and fine offenders.

The European Parliament and Council agreed in March on the final text of the directive, which is now being formally approved by the two institutions.

André Sobczak, Secretary-General at Eurocities, a group representing European cities in Brussels, said: “While the final outcome of the discussions is not ideal, we are pleased that EU policymakers have at least put the issue of the enforcement of local traffic rules on foreign vehicles on the table. As we approach an election year, I believe such a practical example can demonstrate why a European approach is necessary to address local issues.”

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Which traffic offences are covered?

The previous directive covered eight driving misconducts that would require member states to cooperate: speeding, not wearing seat belts, failing to stop at a red traffic light, drink-driving, driving under the effect of drugs, not wearing a helmet (motorcycles / scooters), using a forbidden lane and using a mobile phone or other communication devices while driving.

The Commission proposed to add to the list not keeping a safe distance from the vehicle in front, dangerous overtaking, dangerous parking, crossing one or more solid white lines, driving the wrong way down a one way street, not respecting the rules on "emergency corridors" (a clear lane intended for priority vehicles), and using an overloaded vehicle.

The Parliament and Council agreed to these and added more offences: not giving way to emergency service vehicles, not respecting access restrictions or rules at a rail crossings, as well as hit-and-run offences.

Despite calls from European cities, the new directive does not cover offences related to foreign drivers avoiding congestion charges or low emission zones. In such cases, information about vehicle registration can only be shared among countries with bilateral agreements.

Karen Vancluysen, Secretary General at POLIS, a network of cities and regions working on urban transport, called on the next European Commission to take other local traffic offences, such as breaches of low emission zones, “fully at heart”.

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Collaboration among national authorities

For the traffic violations covered by the directive, EU countries have to help each other to find the liable driver. The new directive further clarifies how.

Member states will have to use the European vehicle and driving licence information system (Eucaris) to get the data of the offender.

National authorities will have 11 months from the date of the violation to issue the fine to a vehicle from another EU member state. However, they will not have to resort to agencies or private entities to collect the fine. This was requested by the European Parliament to avoid scams or leaks of personal data.

Authorities in the country of the offender will have to reply to requests from another EU member state within two months.

When the amount of the fine is more than €70, and all options to have it paid have been exhausted, the member state where the violation occurred can ask the country of the offender to take over the collection.

The person concerned will be able to request follow-up documents in a different official EU language.

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When will the new rules will be enforced?

Now that the EU Parliament has passed the law, the EU Council has to do the same, although there is no date set for when that will happen. Once the directive is adopted, EU countries will have 30 months to prepare for implementation.

Last year the Commission also proposed a new directive on driving licenses, but negotiations on the final text of this file will only take place after the European elections.

This article has been produced in collaboration with Europe Street news.

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