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EU diretive regarding traffic fines 

Foreigners driving in countries other than their own are often unsure of traffic regulations in the country in which they are driving and in some cases merely choose to disregard signs and speed limits as “this is not my country and more often than not the car they are driving is a hire car”. However a new European Law has come into force this year in May which allows foreign drivers who commit a traffic offence in another country to be actually fined for the said offence or face legal proceeding in any member state country.

The European Council has adopted a policy for cross border exchange of information, similar to that for certain aspects of taxation, on traffic offences and which had to be implemented by the 6th May 2015. The only current exception to this are Ireland, Denmark and the UK who have been granted a two year extension on the above implementation, however beware as that two years will pass very quickly and will be upon us before we know it!

Under this new policy there are currently only eight traffic offences included. They are:

1 Speeding

2 Not wearing a seatbelt

3 Failing to stop at a red light

4 Driving under the influence of alcohol

5 Driving under the influence of drugs

6 Not wearing a helmet when riding a motorised bike or scooter

7 Driving in a prohibited lane i.e. one reserved for buses or taxis for example

8 Illegally using a mobile phone or any communication device whilst driving.

There is not currently anything in place to force foreigners to pay fines on the spot or by means of restraining or seizure of vehicles, but this change will no doubt ensure that there will be no escaping the law of that country or fines that they impose.

In Spain the DGT is working with the implantation of the said law and introducing a policy to satisfy such obligations, this together with administrative procedures that can then be launched against the offending drivers and criminal liability, where appropriate will also be ensured.

A prime example is a driver who is travelling at excessive speeds higher than those permitted i.e. 120 km/h on motorways for example and travelling at say 180km/h , could mean that the case would go above and beyond administrative sanctions and could become a criminal offence which may be punishable by imprisonment, withdrawal of the said drivers licence, community service, where appropriate and fines. A driver who has committed any such offence can no longer ignore the fact that criminal proceedings could be opened against them.

This relatively new directive by the EU on cross border data exchange is a replica of the policy that was adopted in 2011 ensuring police cooperation as a legal basis, but this was annulled by the courts in 2014 giving a year to implement a revised framework of the directive. The objective, as we can all see is to help improve road safety in all member states and also to ensure that all drivers are treated equally.

Under these new rules, all member states can access national vehicle registration data from another country in order to find those people who were/are responsible for certain offences that puts the safety of not only themselves but other road users or pedestrian at risk. Who the contact will take place depends on each country as they have the autonomy in its decision on how to process any such offences or sanctions.

Currently this legislation does not permit states to enforce payment of fines in the event of a driver being a RESIDENT abroad , but the new directive means that fines can be collected and legal proceedings can be opened wherever they live and in whichever country where the offence took place.