Expats flee traffic fines in British-owned cars

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European police forces are stepping up a gear in their efforts to collect fines from motoring offences committed overseas by drivers with a car registered in Britain.

The European Commission is drafting a new directive to net British, Irish and Danish drivers after the governments in each country opted out of an earlier directive letting police forces share vehicle registration details.

Now, the European Court of Justice has overturned the previous directive, allowing Eurocrats to redraft the law to trap owners of vehicles in the trio of opt-out countries.

The new directive will cover all countries in the EU without the chance of any opt-out.

Meanwhile the current law stays in force.

Unfair on owners

Under the measure, if a British vehicle is involved in a traffic offence in another EU nation, fiqnes and penalty points are addressed to the vehicle’s keeper, not the offending driver.

This allows expats with vehicles still registered in the UK to avoid paying fines and collecting points for traffic offences in EU countries.

The British Department of Transport argues this is unfair because in many cases, the driver is not the keeper of the vehicle.

Typical scenarios would include hired cars and vans or company cars that are not driven by the keeper.

The British government intends to oppose the redrafted law.

“We will resist any changes that affect British motorists,” said a Department of Transport spokesman. “The government will oppose any new bill before it reaches the European Parliament.”

400,000 Brits escape fines

He also explained that the law wrongly focussed on owners not drivers.

Across The Channel, the law is viewed differently. The French government reckons around 400,000 British motorists drive over the limit in the country every year because the British police refuse to hand over any details regarding offending vehicles.

This means police can collect on-the-spot fines, but once the drive is on a ferry or a Eurotunnel train back to the UK, they cannot be penalised.

Only four governments share vehicle ownership information with France out of the 25 EU nations that have opted in to the current rules. They are Belgium, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Switzerland.

The driving offences covered by the current agreement are speeding, jumping traffic lights, not wearing a seatbelt, driving under the influence of drink or drugs, not wearing a crash helmet, using a mobile phone while driving and driving in a closed lane.

Traffic experts say these offences account for three-quarters of all road deaths.

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