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European directive regarding traffic fines and sanctions 

Last year saw the implementation of a new European Law with regards to Traffic fines within member countries. This law has permitted the authorities in the EU countries to follow the fine through in other member state and carryout legal proceedings in any member state. This is something that should be welcomed by safe drivers and road users; it was first implemented in May 2015.

The European Council has now adopted a cross border exchange of information service with regards to Traffic offences, something that we may have already come across in other parts of our lives or day to day business. The deadline for implementation across the continent was the 6th May 2015, with the only exception being the UK, Ireland and Denmark who, for some reason had been given a two year extension on the implementation of this law.

Currently this law only covers eight offences whereby the exchange of information can be enforced. These are:

1. Speeding.

2. Failure to wear a seatbelt when driving.

3. Failure to stop at a Red light.

4. Driving when under the influence of alcohol.

5. Driving when under the influence of drugs.

6. Failure to wear a helmet on a motorcycle or scooter ,

7. Driving in a lane forbidden to cars i.e. a bus lane, taxi only lane etc.

8. Illegally using a mobile phone or any other communication devices whilst driving, this includes of course texting whilst driving.

At present there is nothing in place to force foreigners, e.g. tourists as opposed to Resident Foreigners; to pay fines in countries where they are not resident but the change does however mean that there is now no escaping the law or fines imposed on drivers.

Here in Spain the DGT has been working towards this implementation in order to comply with the new law. This means that the Traffic police (Guardia Civil) together with the administrative staff working for the DGT, can start proceedings against the said drivers and that criminal liability will also be ensured. As we know however the police in general, and here in the Canary Islands are short of staff and we may not have yet seen the full effects of the implementation of this law, but be assured that it is in place and will come.

If you are caught travelling at speed excessively higher than that which is permitted under the law and road you are travelling on, the case will be amplified beyond only sanctions and will then become a criminal matter which can be punishable with imprisonment, withdrawal of ones driving licence, community service and a hefty fine. A driver who has committed an offence of any of these types can no longer ignore the criminal liability of legal proceedings.

This new directive on the cross border exchange of information is a replica of the policy that was adopted in 2011 by the EU ensuring that the police cooperate as a legal basis, but this directive was annulled by the Courts in 2014 and providing a year for a new legal framework to be worked out and implemented, which was done. The objective of the new policy remains the same as before and that is to ensure equal treatment of all drivers and to improve road safety for all.

Under these new rules, all member states can access the national vehicle registers data from other countries in order to ascertain those responsible for these types of offences that put road safety at risk. The alleged offender may be contacted with a sample letter included in the policy, but this will depend on the individual member state where the offence took place, as each country has autonomy in deciding how to process the sanctions.

Currently the legislation does not allow states to enforce payments of fines in the event of a driver being resident abroad, however the new directive means that the fine can be collected and judicial proceedings can be started wherever they live and in whichever country the offence was committed.