New EU Directive Means No Escape from Traffic Fines
A new European law is about to come into force which allows foreign drivers who commit traffic offences in other countries to be sanctioned for the offences, or face legal proceedings in any member state country.
The European Council has adopted a policy for cross-border exchange of information on traffic offences, which must be implemented in most countries across the continent no later than the 6th of May, with the exception of the UK, Ireland and Denmark who have been given a two year extension on implementation.
Under the new policy, the exchange of data covers eight traffic offences: speeding, not wearing seat a seatbelt, failure to stop at a red light, driving under the influence of alcohol, driving under the influence of drugs, not wearing a helmet, driving in a forbidden lane, and illegally using a mobile phone or any other communication devices while driving.
Currently there is no mechanism in place to force foreigners to pay fines in none resident countries by means of restraint or seizure, but the change will ensure that there is no escaping the law, or the fines.
In Spain, the DGT has been working on implementing a new policy to satisfy the obligation. Together with the administrative proceedings that can be launched against drivers, criminal liability will also be ensured.
Travelling at a speed excessively higher than that which is permitted on the road amplifies cases beyond administrative sanctions and it becomes a criminal matter, punishable with imprisonment, withdrawal of license, community service and a fine. A driver who has committed an offence of this type can no longer ignore the criminal liability of legal proceedings being opened.
The new directive on cross-border data exchange is a replica of the policy adopted in 2011 by the EU ensuring police cooperation as a legal basis, but the directive was annulled by the courts in 2014, giving a year for a new legal framework to be implemented. The objective of the new policy remains the same as before, to improve road safety and to ensure equal treatment of all drivers.
Under the new rules, member states can access national vehicle registration data from other countries in order to find those responsible for certain offenses that put road safety at risk. The alleged offender may be contacted with a sample letter included in the policy, but that depends on the member state where the offence took place, as each country has autonomy in deciding to decide how to process the sanctions.
Currently, the legislation does not allow states to enforce payment of fines in the event of a driver being resident abroad, but the new directive means that the fine can be collected and judicial proceedings can be opened wherever they live and in whichever country the offence was committed.