David Martin MEP

Labour Member of the European Parliament and one of the six MEPs representing Scotland in Brussels and Strasbourg

Exchanging information to improve road safety across Europe

The Caithness Courier, February 2015

For the first time cross-border information exchanges will allow access to national vehicle registration data in all of the European Union’s 28 member states, allowing offenders who commit traffic offences in an EU country other than their own to be tracked and given penalties in their home country.

Approved during the February Plenary of the European Parliament, the new directive covers the safety-related offences of speeding, not using a seatbelt, failing to stop at red lights,  driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, not wearing a safety helmet, using a restricted lane and using a mobile phone while driving.

Police will be able to find the personal data of drivers through their car registration plate and share the information with the police in the offender's country allowing authorities in each member state to hold drivers accountable and notify them of the offence in the language of the country where they live. Currently some agreements do exist between certain EU Member States, however it is often not possible to deal with the increasingly complex cross-border problems posed by traffic offenders.

The goal of the new directive is to go some way towards meeting the EU target of cutting road deaths in half by 2020 and fulfils a priority of guaranteeing the best possible level of road safety for EU citizens by ensuring equal treatment for drivers, regardless of their country of residence. The European Transport Safety Council estimates more than 26,000 citizens lost their lives on Europe’s roads last year. Knowing that you can be caught plays a key role in preventing dangerous driving.

According to European Commission figures, non-resident drivers account for approximately 5% of road traffic in the EU but are responsible for 15% of speeding offences and a foreign-registered car is three times more likely to commit traffic offences than a domestically-registered one. The Commission gives the example of France, where speeding offences committed by foreign-registered cars reach approximately 25% of the total, with the figure going up to 40-50% during the very busy tourist season. For this reason it is expected that countries with high levels of tourism traffic may benefit most from the new legislation. The law will come into effect in most EU countries later this year; Denmark, Ireland and the UK will have two additional years. The law is expected to put an end to the injustice of foreign drivers escaping traffic penalties while locals get punished for the same offence.

The UK, Ireland, Malta and Cyprus are the only EU countries that drive on the left hand side of the road. Making the adjustment to driving on the right is easier for some than others, but driving a car with the transmission on the correct side of the car for the country can make this easier. Traffic rules can also vary in different member states. The European Commission has produced a website (http://ec.europa.eu/transport/road_safety/going_abroad/index_en.htm) and mobile app that highlight the main traffic rules in all 28 EU member states.


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