If you commit a driving offence abroad, whether civil or criminal, will the penalty follow you home?
The UK Denmark and Ireland initailly opted out of an EU Directive introduced in November 2013 to facilitate cross-border exchange of information on road safety related traffic offences to ensure that drivers are punished for offences committed abroad.
Aimed at speeding, drink/drug driving, failure to wear seatbelts/crash helmets, red light and forbidden lane offences, and use of mobile phone offences, directive 2011/82/EU enabled drivers to be identified and prosecuted for offences committed in a Member State other than the one where their vehicle is registered.
In 2014 the European Court of Justice annulled this directive because of an incorrect legal base (police cooperation).
Current rules remain in place until 6 May 2015, by which time a new directive on the correct legal basis (transport safety) should be in force.
The UK opted out of the original directive on economic grounds arguing that the cost of the IT systems and processing penalties outweighed the income that would be received from fines recovered.
With its legal basis changed to transport safety the revised directive will apply to all Member States. The agreed text of the revised directive gives the UK, Ireland and Denmark two years from entry into force of the directive, to adopt relevant national rules.
The AA doesn’t believe that citizens driving across borders should break or escape motoring laws. Cross border enforcement has merit but there are big differences in the sanctions imposed on errant drivers and the way member states approach enforcement, quality of evidence and appeals. It is far from a level playing field.
Even though it will be a few years until the UK participates fully in this system for pan-European electronic exchange of keeper details there are processes in place to ensure that you can still expect to be punished for traffic offences abroad.
When it comes to civil offences such as parking fines or the enforcement of restricted traffic zones - the most common offence committed abroad by AA members if our mail is anything to go by - the authorities have the means of recovering fines through debt collection agencies.
These agencies operate across Europe and are appointed by the authorities in one country to act on their behalf to recover fines in another country.
We have heard of cases where the driver was contacted initially by the enforcing authority in the country where the offence was committed but chose to ignore the fine only to be contacted subsequently by one of the above agencies with a much increased penalty charge.
We would always recommend paying a fine, as long as you believe you could have committed the offence, because if you ignore it not only will the fine increase but you can expect to experience difficulties if you later try to travel back to the country in which the offence occurred.
Appeals are possible but will generally have to be made in the local language of the country where the alleged offence occurred.
If you commit any sort of offence in a hire car and enforcement doesn't take place at the time of the offence then the enforcing authority will initially contact the hire car company for driver details.
Your hire agreement will almost certainly include clauses accepting liability for any offences committed during the hire period and authorising the hire car company to pass on your details to the authorities.
There was probably also a clause authorising the hire company to charge any penalties to the credit card you used to secure the booking and/or to charge you an administration fee for passing on your details.
Having obtained your details from the hire car company the authority, or their agent, has 360 days to contact you.
(updated 26 February 2015)
Check rules and regulations abroad