Member states will be able to identify and fine foreign drivers committing traffic offences after the European Parliament approved today (11 February) a law allowing them to share information on car registries.
Road users who infringe a range of motoring offences in another EU state often avoid financial retribution because the national enforcement agencies cannot identify them.
Non-resident drivers account for 5% of the road traffic in the EU, but around 15% of speeding offences according to the European Commission. For example, in France speeding offences committed by non-residents motorists reach 25% of the total number of offences, and reach 40–50% during very busy periods of the year.
“Every traffic victim is one too many,” said Transport Commissioner Violeta Bulc during the plenary session of the European Parliament.
In order to have safer roads, the bill will set up a system for cross-border exchange of information within the union. It will also help member states hold all EU drivers accountable and improve road safety by reducing the number of casualties.
“[This law] will serve as a deterrent for foreign drivers who are now aware that it is possible for them to be notified of any offences they commit whilst abroad,” said the European Parliament rapporteur Ines Ayala Sender MEP, a Spanish social democrat.
“Citizens are of course never thrilled to receive a letter telling them they committed a traffic offence, but they too welcome the fact that everyone in the EU will be treated equally, no matter where their vehicle is registered,” Ayala Sender MEP continued.
Only eight traffic offences are covered by EU law on cross-border traffic information exchange. Car users will be fined if found liable for speeding, not using a seatbelt, failing to stop at red lights, drunk driving, driving under the influence of drugs, not wearing a safety helmet, using a forbidden lane, and illegally using a mobile phone while driving.
Old rule, new scope
It is not the first time the bill has been brought before the members of the European Parliament. The European Commission came forward with such a proposal in 2010. After three years of negotiations in the European Parliament and the Council, policymakers agreed to adopt the law, but won a different legal basis.
Instead of passing the legislation under the EU competence in the field of transport, as suggested by the Commission, the lawmakers changed it to police cooperation. The European Court of Justice annulled the law in 2014 for being adopted under a wrong legal basis and sent it back to EU institutions for revision.
“The main or predominant aim of the directive is to improve road safety, […and] is not directly linked to the objectives of police cooperation,” ruled the court.
EU institutions are rushing to adopt the bill with a new legal basis, as provisional rules will remain in place only by May 2015.
The majority of parliamentarians showed clear support for the bill ahead of the vote. In a plenary debate yesterday (10 February), MEPs called for the implementation of the law as soon as possible and prosecute the offenders.
The UK, Denmark, and Ireland were left out from the original law because they don’t participate in areas of police cooperation at the EU level. The new rule, however, will apply to all EU countries and gives the three countries a period of two years to implement the EU provisions in the national legislation.
The Commission will assess the impact of the law on national roads and prepare a report by 2016 with further recommendations, said Bulc. Depending on the outcome, the executive branch could develop road safety guidelines, add more offences to the current ones, or suggest harmonising traffic rules, explained Commissioner Bulc.
The bill has to be approved by the Council before it officially enters into force.