Commenting on the change to a law next month that will mean EU member states have to share information on drivers relating to traffic offences, 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 EU 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 country.
“Unfortunately the 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 abroad.
“We strongly 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 so. The RAC website has a host of country-specific motoring advice in its News and Advice section.”
The EU Cross Border Enforcement Directive covers eight specified offences: drink-driving, drug-driving, speeding, jumping red lights, forbidden lane contraventions, handheld mobile phone use, seat belts, and not wearing a helmet.