Drivers caught breaking traffic laws while on the continent may soon find themselves being pursued through UK courts, under new plans to let EU member states access British motorists’ driving records for the first time.
Currently, for British drivers to be penalised for speeding or other traffic offences, they have to be physically pulled over by a police officer. Drivers caught by speed cameras normally escape punishment, though hire-car drivers are normally traced through the rental company.
However, this is set to change, as the European Parliament is due to vote on new plans which would give police forces the power to pursue offenders through their domestic courts, and send fines to drivers across Europe.
The plans are expected to be backed by the majority of MEPs and will cover a variety of motoring offences, including drink and drug driving, failing to stop for a red light and driving while using a mobile phone, as well as speeding.
Drivers will be traced via their car’s registration number and presented with a fine and the threat of court action in the event of non-payment. British police will receive the same powers, and will finally be able to chase motoring offenders who have long left the country.
Ines Ayala Sender, a Spanish MEP and the EU Parliament’s negotiator on the issue, told The Independent: “To meet the new EU target of cutting road deaths by half in Europe we need new and more effective road-safety tools – such as this directive – to make sure offenders are held to account.
“Citizens are, of course, never thrilled to receive a letter telling them they have been caught committing a traffic offence, but they do welcome the fact that everyone in the EU will be treated equally, no matter where their vehicle is registered.”
If given the green light, the changes to the law would take effect from May, though the UK has been given an additional two years to update legislation and the administrative infrastructure to cope with the new system.
Road safety campaigners have largely welcomed the news, though the AA has raised concerns over the differences in member states’ driving laws and penalties.
AA president Edmund King said: “Different European countries have significantly different motoring laws and indeed penalties. If UK drivers receive a penalty notice for using a ‘restricted lane’ in Spain they may wish to contest it, but this would prove impossible in most cases as often photographic evidence is not provided. Returning to Europe for a court case is prohibitive in terms of cost.”
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