New European Union rules meaning member states, including
the UK, have to share information on drivers relating to traffic offences, come
into effect on 7 May - with significant implications for fleets.
The so-called Cross-Border Enforcement Directive, actually
came into force two years ago, but the UK, Denmark and Ireland secured a
derogation giving them until next month to implement the new rules. Finland
and Portugal have yet to implement the Directive.
Critically, there could be widespread implications for
fleets as there are differences in
member state laws around whether the driver or the registered keeper of a
vehicle is responsible following an offence.
The Directive enables European Union drivers to be
identified for offences committed in a member state other than the one where
their vehicle is registered.
In practical terms, the Directive provides member states access
to each other’s vehicle registration data via an electronic information system
to exchange the necessary information in which the offence was committed and
the country in which the vehicle was registered.
Once the vehicle owner’s name and address are known, a
letter to the presumed offender may be sent, on the basis of a model
established by the Directive. However, it is for the member state where the
offence was committed to decide on the follow-up.
The Directive covers the eight most common traffic offences:
Speeding, failing to use a seatbelt, failing to stop at a red traffic light,
drink-driving, driving while under the influence of drugs, failing to wear a
safety helmet, the use of a forbidden lane and illegally using a mobile
telephone or any other communication devices while driving.
The Directive does not harmonise either the nature of the
offences, nor the system of sanctions for the offences. So it is the national
rules in the member state of offence, which continue to apply regarding both
the nature of the offence and sanctions.
Commenting on the law change, RAC
spokesman Simon Williams said: “While we are supportive of the principle of cross-border
law enforcement, we are fearful differences in member state laws around whether
the driver or the registered keeper of a vehicle is responsible following an
offence will mean some European Union drivers committing certain offences in
the UK will wrongly escape punishment. In this sense the Cross-Border
Enforcement Directive is a bit of a misnomer as it doesn’t create a level
cross-border enforcement playing field.
“Of course, it’s
right that any UK driver found to be breaking motoring laws in another European
country will have to face the relevant penalty as this has been an unacceptable
loophole for too many years, but equally, it is also right that any motorist in
charge of a European-registered vehicle found to be exceeding a speed limit, or
other such offence, in the UK should face the consequences in his or her own
application of the Directive is simply not practical. In the UK it is the
driver of a speeding vehicle who receives penalty points whereas in France it
is the vehicle’s registered keeper who is deemed to be responsible. This means
a French person caught speeding in the UK could get away with the offence if
they were not the registered keeper of the vehicle concerned, as the French
equivalent of the DVLA can only pass details of the offence to the keeper. This
may make prosecution extremely hard for UK authorities.
“And if a UK
driver is caught speeding in France in a vehicle they are not the owner of,
they too might get away with the fine as the registered keeper in the UK would
be pursued by the French authorities to pay. While the keeper can state in
response they were not the driver, the big question is: will French authorities
pursue and fine keepers who claim they weren’t driving at the time?
“The RAC has,
however, been advised by the Department for Transport that there is no transfer
of penalty points to UK drivers’ licences for speeding offences committed
recommend every motorist travelling to Europe by car familiarises themselves
with the local rules of the road as it is ultimately their responsibility to do