The EU has put a system in place to share driver details across borders, for some safety-related driving offences:
- It only applies where the offender isn't penalised while still in the country
- It only applies to specific, road safety-related offences:
- Drink/drug driving
- Seatbelt/crash helmet
- Red light/forbidden lane, and
- Mobile phone offences
- The UK joined the system for new offences committed after 6 May 2017
What does this mean?
Basically, if you commit one of the listed offences and the authorities in another country request your details, then DVLA will now have to provide them.
The new regulation (SI 2017/554) requires the DVLA to provide details of the registered keeper/owner at the time of the alleged traffic offence if the authorities in another EU country contact DVLA within 12 months of the date of the alleged offence with:
- Details of the alleged offence (date, time, location)
- Vehicle registration number
- Vehicle category and, if known, its make and model
The EU’s first attempt at a directive (2011/82/EU) was introduced in 2013 but the UK opted out, arguing that the cost of the IT systems and processing penalties would be more than the income it received from fines.
In 2014, the European Court of Justice annulled this directive because of an incorrect legal base (police cooperation).
In May 2015 a new directive (2015/413/EU) on the correct legal basis (transport safety) came into force and applies to all member states. The UK, along with Denmark and Ireland who also opted out of the original directive, were given until May 2017 to comply.
What happened before May 2017?
There were already processes in place to ensure that you're punished for traffic offences abroad.
- Bilateral agreements exist between the UK and Ireland and the UK and the Isle of Man for exchange of registered keeper details.
- Many countries operate ‘deposit schemes’ (effectively an on-the-spot-fine) where police can demand payment at the roadside as a deposit against a later fixed penalty charge or possible court prosecution.
- In extreme cases your driving licence or vehicle can be taken away. And a temporary ban makes it difficult to carry on with your holiday or return home.
For things like parking fines or driving in restricted traffic zones (If our mail is anything to go by these are the most common offence committed abroad by AA members) the authorities can use debt collection agencies to recover fines.
Operating across Europe, agencies are appointed by the authorities in one country to act on their behalf to recover fines in another country. If you find yourself in this situation you can expect to hear either from European Municipality Outsourcing (EMO), or from Euro Parking Collection (EPC).
We’ve heard of drivers ignoring fines when contacted directly by the enforcing authority, only to be contacted later by one of these agencies with a much-increased penalty charge. If you believe you could have committed the offence you should pay the fine. If you ignore it, not only will the fine increase, but you can expect travel difficulties if you try to return to the same country. You can appeal but this usually has to be done in the local language.
updated 3 July 2017