Currently, British motorists who commit minor traffic offences whilst driving in other EU countries frequently escape penalty-free, as the present situation is that unless an offender is caught whilst in the process of breaking the law, there is no way of pursuing the matter. Some estimates indicate that as many as half a million motoring offences are committed each year by British drivers travelling in the EU. The situation is set to change next month, when changes in EU rules will result in evidence from speed cameras being shared internationally, allowing drivers to be prosecuted once they return to Britain.
Rather than British motorists being “home and dry” once they leave the continent, the new legislation means that all of the EU member states will have access to the ANPR (automatic number plate recognition) database. This allows any EU country to rapidly and accurately access the owner information of a vehicle that is spotted on camera behaving illegally, then pursue the individual and apply a penalty – in the same way the British authorities currently use the ANPR system.
How to minimise your risk
Common infractions include speeding, not wearing a seatbelt, driving whilst under the influence of alcohol or using a mobile phone. To minimise the risk of completing a trip abroad only to be faced with a fine or penalty points for committing these offences, it makes sense to avoid potentially dangerous driving behaviours. Familiarise yourself with any differences in speed limits and driving rules between the UK and the countries you intend to visit, and make sure your vehicle is compliant with foreign regulations and that you have appropriate insurance in place. Remember that on the continent, speed is measured in kilometres per hour rather than miles per hour, so ensure you’re clear on the difference!
Provided British motorists drive in a sensible manner, these changes should have minimal impact on their EU driving experience. Hopefully, the threat of prosecution will result in a drop in unsafe driving from British nationals abroad, once they realise that getting home doesn’t mean getting away with it!