EU law targets foreign rogue drivers to curb offences

Cars on a French road - file pic Image copyright AFP
Image caption The EU is trying to harmonise road safety rules in the 28-nation bloc

Drivers who commit traffic offences in another EU country will be pursued for fines at home, under a new EU draft law expected to be passed on Wednesday.

A European Parliament vote is expected to lead to the new law becoming enforceable in most EU states in May.

However, the UK, Republic of Ireland and Denmark have been given until May 2017 to adopt the law, because they had opted out of an earlier version.

The UK Conservative and Labour groups in Strasbourg support the new law.

The EU directive will cover a range of offences, including:

  • drink-driving
  • speeding
  • using a mobile phone at the wheel
  • ignoring red lights or one-way signs

The lead MEP handling the legislation, Spanish Socialist Ines Ayala Sender, said the aim was to tackle "the relative impunity for foreign drivers" violating road safety rules.

It will enable authorities to "impose penalties on non-residents in the same way as residents", she said in a report.

An EU guide to the new law says it will be most effective in cases where offences are detected automatically, such as speeding and jumping red lights.

Data exchanges

A European Commission study indicates non-resident drivers account for about 5% of road traffic offences, but in speeding cases the figure is 15%.

In France, the commission says, speeding offences by foreigners are about 25% of the total - and that rises to nearly half of the total during the holiday season.

For the first time in the EU, each country will have a "national contact point" where prosecuting authorities will be able to access a database to trace foreign drivers.

A suspected offender will receive a letter from the authorities in the country where the offence took place, informing him or her about the legal consequences.

A statement from UK Conservative MEPs said the measure would "help British authorities pursue foreign drivers who flout UK traffic laws and then escape justice".

Labour's transport spokeswoman in Europe, Lucy Anderson MEP, criticised the UK government for having "insisted on an excessively long implementation period".

"Any unnecessary delay is unacceptable and will undermine the UK's ongoing efforts to reduce road deaths," she said.

Ms Ayala's report says the EU is on target to cut road deaths by 50% by 2020.

But she adds: "There has been a spike in the number of road accident victims for various reasons: people's cars are getting older; there have been swingeing cuts in infrastructure maintenance spending, thanks to the economic crisis; [and] there is a lack of funding for infrastructure."

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