What happens when you get foreign speeding tickets?
The number of requests by EU countries seeking to pursue UK motorists increased by 30 percent last year, prompting a swift check on the laws around foreign speeding tickets and other offences.
Many UK bikers head for the continent, drawn not just by high-quality roads, beautiful scenery, great food and culture but also by the idea that, somehow, driving abroad means you are less likely to get a speeding ticket or worse.
Compared to the number of tickets handed out to UK drivers at home, the number of prosecutions of UK drivers is still arguably very few, judging by the number of requests under the Mutual Legal Assistance (MLA) agreement. In 2016 it was just 1,625 requests.
However, the number is 30% higher than the previous year and reflects an upwards trend since the introduction of the MLA in 2014, designed to improve the cooperation between states for obtaining assistance in the prosecution of criminal offences.
The numbers do not, of course, include roadside fines handed out on-the-spot in countries like France but they may include requests from the private companies that have been contracted by the French Government to deploy unmarked radar-enabled cars across the country.
Before the introduction of the MLA, it was thought that some 500,000 speeding offences by British drivers went unpunished each year in France alone.
Thanks to the Cross-Border Enforcement Directive, even after Brexit, it’s possible that the number of foreign speeding tickets received by UK drivers will rise.
So what do you do if the letter arrives?
From 06 May 2017 the Cross-Border Enforcement Directive (CBED) allows an EU member state to pursue a UK registered vehicle involved in traffic offences in their country.
This includes not just speeding but drink and drug driving, running red lights and lane contraventions.
It also covers any applicable local laws relating to mobile phone offences and not wearing a helmet. Drivers can be prosecuted for not wearing a seat belt, too.
If you commit an offence and a fine is issued, the CBED also allows the country to pursue you through the UK legal system.
Anyone not familiar with local driving laws within each EU country can download a useful iOS and Android app
You won’t get points
The good news is the Department of Transport has confirmed penalty points collected abroad are not transferred to a UK driver’s licence.
The very bad news is you will be pursued for fines of up to €750 (around £660 in September 2017) in France. And you will have to pay.
You will receive a letter, written in English, which must, under the CBED agreement, include details on:
* The date and time when the offence was detected
* The nature of the offence
* Any relevant information about the offence
* The nation’s legislation you infringed
* The legal consequences of the offences
Much of the process is automated so it seems unlikely that your letter will fail to contain information that you could argue has jeopardised your liability.
Don’t rely on the 14-day rule
In the UK, if the speeding fine doesn’t arrive within 14 days of committing the offence, it can’t be enforced. In Italy though, the authorities can issue a fine up to a year out. And as it is the local countries laws you have broken, it is their laws under which fines are issued and complied with.
Talking of European laws, like much of Brexit, no one seems to know what will happen after we leave and whether the MLA and CBED will remain in place. We would bet the legislation stays in place, though as part of the bargaining process. It doesn’t cost the UK much to operate but does buy goodwill.
Interestingly, the CBED doesn’t work both ways. There is no agreement for the UK to be able to pursue drivers from other EU states who have committed offences in the United Kingdom. This is because in the UK the responsibility lies with drivers rather than registered car owners.
Get yourself sorted:
Compared to the likely number of offences committed by Brits in Europe, the chances of receiving a fine still seem very low. It’s your risk, but if you are sent foreign speeding tickets, it seems the best thing to do is just pay them.