FOREIGNERS driving in a country other than their own are often unsure of traffic regulations there. And in some cases, they simply disregard signs and speed limits because “this is not my country”! More often than not, they are driving a hire car, but persistent offenders could be in for a shock.
A European Law, which came into force in May, allows drivers who commit a traffic offence abroad to be fined, or face legal proceedings in any member state country.
The European Council has adopted a policy for cross-border exchange of information, similar to that for certain aspects of taxation, on traffic offences. The only exceptions to this are Ireland, Denmark and the UK, who have been granted a two-year extension on the new law. But beware, because this period will zoom by and will be upon us before we know it!
Under the new law, there are just eight traffic offences included:
2, Not wearing a seat-belt
3, Failing to stop at a red light
5, Driving under the influence of drugs
6, Not wearing a helmet when riding a motorised bike or scooter
7, Driving in a prohibited lane – reserved for buses or taxis, say
8, Using a mobile phone or any communication device illegally while driving
So far, there is nothing in place to force foreigners to pay fines on the spot. But there will be no escaping the law of that particularly country – or the fines imposed.
Spain’s traffic control agency, DGT, is working to implement the law and introduce a policy to satisfy such obligations, together with administrative procedures, including criminal liability where appropriate, that can be launched against offending drivers.
A prime example is a driver travelling at speeds above the permitted limits – doing 180km/h, for instance, on motorways, which, as we know, are restricted to 120 km/h.
That might mean the case going above and beyond administrative sanctions and could become a criminal offence, possibly punishable by imprisonment, withdrawal of driver’s licence, community service, where appropriate, and fines. Drivers who commit any such offence can no longer ignore the fact that criminal proceedings could be opened against them.
This relatively-new EU directive on cross-border data exchange is a replica of the policy adopted in 2011, which ensured police co-operation as a legal basis. But this was annulled by the courts in 2014, allowing a year to implement a revision of the directive. The objective, obviously, is to help improve road safety in all member states, and to ensure that all drivers are treated equally.
Under these new rules, all member states can access national vehicle registration data from another country. They will be able to trace people responsible for certain offences that put the safety of not only themselves but other road-users or pedestrian at risk.