The European Parliament’s transport committee yesterday (9 September) backed plans to make it easier for national authorities to fine drivers from other EU countries for offences committed on their territory, such as speeding and drink-driving.
The draft directive – initially presented by the Commission in March as part of plans to improve road safety within the Union – aims to stop drivers from consistently going unpunished when committing offences in another country simply because it is too difficult to identify them or check the address at which their vehicle is registered.
The text therefore provides for the establishment of an electronic data-exchange network, enabling national traffic authorities to identify foreign vehicle owners thanks to their registration documents and send them offence notifications. Member states will have two years to set up the system and start operating it.
Speeding, drink-driving, neglecting to wear a seat belt and failure to stop at red lights – the four leading causes of road deaths – will all be covered by the new scheme.
But MEPs are already considering the possibility of extending the new rules to other road traffic infringements and have called on the Commission to submit a report on the matter two years after the directive’s entry into force.
According to rapporteur Inez Ayala Sender (PES, ES), the current situation – whereby drivers can often avoid penalties – not only jeopardises road safety but is also discriminatory with respect to local residents committing similar offences, because they do face penalties.
The EU executive believes better enforcement of traffic rules could prevent 14,000 deaths and 680,000 injuries each year in the EU 15 alone, helping the bloc to reach its target of reducing road fatalities from roughly 43,000 a year in 2007 to 25,000 by 2010.
MEPs also took the opportunity to introduce further road safety requirements, demanding that all member states promote minimum traffic control practices. These would include an obligation for countries where the number of fatalities is above the EU average to increase speed checks on their territory by 30%.
Parliamentarians also want member states to ensure that at least 30% of all drivers are tested for drink-driving every year and are asking countries where less than 70% of the population wear seat belts to carry out “intensive checks” over periods of at least six weeks a year to ensure compliance.
Lastly, the committee asked national authorities to make the effort to inform road users of the new cross-border enforcement rules.
The draft law must now be appoved by the member states themselves, with a first debate on the issue due on 9 October. “The ball is now in the member states’ camp. But I am confident we can reach an agreement at first reading,” said French EPP-ED MEP Brigitte Fouré, adding that the French EU Presidency was very active on the dossier.