Escape from punishment for dangerous driving on Europe’s roads is set to end — no more impunity for drivers caught for offences outside their own countries. The European Parliament has approved a new law on EU member states exchanging information. This essentially means licence plates and vehicle ownership.
The MEP responsible for guiding the law package through the institutional process was the rapporteur within the parliament’s transport committee, Inés Ayala Sender: “A European citizen who was visiting another EU country and who committed a road safety infraction… once he returned home, if he was not arrested on the spot… well, the infraction remained unpunished, since there wasn’t a system of information cooperation between both countries’ police forces, for offences on the roads.”
It is estimated that this sense of impunity felt by non-resident drivers lies at the origin of 400 deaths each year on Europe’s roads. The records show that the number of non-residents involved in road accidents is disproportionately high. The new directive aims to reduce infractions.
Eight infractions are covered: speeding and running red lights; driving under the influence of alcohol or another drug; not using a seatbelt or not wearing a helmet; illegal use of a mobile phone, and driving in a restricted lane, such as one reserved for buses.
Not all the EU countries fall within the scope of the sanctions directive, however.
The rapporteur said: “Three member states practice what we call opt-in/opt-out. This means they have the right to not be covered by a directive, and this is the case of the UK, Ireland and Denmark, although Ireland has said it intends to participate, to opt in. The UK has discussed it, and may do so again.”
The country where an infraction occurs will request information relating to a given number plate, stating the type of infraction, and the date and time it happened. The country in which a plate is registered is legally bound to provide the ownership data.
Ayala Sender said: “The road safety authorities where the infraction is committed can ask the country of residence of the offender to indentify him, and the resident state is obliged to give the information.”
The directive will not come into effect immediately, nor at the same time in all EU states. They have a two-year period in which to transcribe the law into their national lawbooks. After that is done, an EU citizen who committed any of the common infractions listed could be held liable. Notification would be by registered mail.