No Escaping Traffic Fines For Euro Expats

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Expat drivers picking up traffic convictions across Europe face on-the-spot fines or having their vehicles seized as new cross-border laws come into force.

All European Union countries except the UK, Ireland and Denmark have signed up to a new treaty allowing traffic police and courts in one country to pursue offenders in other countries for fines.

Even drivers captured braking traffic laws by roadside cameras will pick up a fine through the post when they return home.

The 25 nations will also swop details of drivers so fines can be collected, but no penalty points will be added to licences.

Driving offences

The new agreement covers eight key driving offences:

  • Driving while drunk or under the influence of drugs
  • Breaking the speed limit
  • Driving through red lights
  • Failing to follow seat belt laws
  • Riding a motorbike without a crash helmet
  • Driving on the hard shoulder of motorways
  • Calling or texting on a mobile phone while driving

For the first time, police and courts in European nations will let foreign law enforcement agencies access their files to identify drivers.

So, police in Italy or France can send a fixed penalty ticket or summons to a driver in Spain or Italy snapped by a camera committing an offence.

France is the driving force behind the new law.

The government reckons foreign drivers are at fault for more than a quarter of traffic offences and never get punished.

Around 9% of these offences involve incidents where people have died.

The new rules will allow traffic police to track thousands of these drivers for unpaid fines.

Enforcement loophole

However, penalties for breaking traffic laws vary significantly between countries and the fine will be based on where the offence was committed, not where the driver lives.

For example, a minor speeding fine in Germany is just 10 euros, while the French charge 68 euros for the same offence; although a 23 euro quick payment discount can reduce the penalty.

A loophole in the law does not give foreign law enforcement agencies powers to enforce collecting the fines. So, a driver can commit a traffic offence in one country and still get away without paying the fine as long as they do not re-enter the country where the offence took place.

The European Commission is looking at new laws to close this loophole after a 24 month trial period of the new rules.

Online commentators have also suggested that Britain and the European Commission have discussed extending the laws to the UK, but negotiations are ongoing.

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