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Road safety: EU crackdown on drivers committing traffic offences abroad

speedometer

Drivers will be punished for traffic offences they commit abroad, including the four "big killers" causing 75% of road fatalities - speeding, breaking traffic lights, failure to use seatbelts and drink driving - following a vote in the European Parliament on 6 July.

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Road safety: EU road fatalities fall by 11% in 2010

car driver getting a ticket

The European Commission has published new statistics showing that EU road fatalities decreased by 11% in 2010. However, country by country statistics, show that the number of deaths still varies greatly across the EU. Most countries achieved double-digit reductions in the number of road deaths over the past year, the best ones being Luxembourg (33%), Malta (29%) Sweden (26%) and Slovakia (26%). However there is still a lot of work to be done.

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Commission launches new Neighbourhood Transport Action Plan

container trains

The European Commission has published a new Neighbourhood Transport Action Plan to strengthen transport links with neighbouring regions to the East and South of of the EU. The plan proposes more than 20 concrete measures, in the short and longer term, to make transport connections smoother, safer and more reliable. At the same time, it will deepen market integration to the advantage of both the EU and its neighbouring regions. The plan was presented on 7 July 2011 by Vice President Siim Kallas responsible for Transport and and Commissioner Stefan Füle, Commissioner for Enlargement and European Neighbourhood policy.

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Closer cooperation on Short Sea Shipping with US

signing of the MoU

The United States's Maritime Administration and the Directorate-General for Mobility and Transport took a major step towards closer cooperation on maritime transport affairs on 1 July. In a meeting at the Directorate-General's premises,  Director General Mr Mathias Ruete and the US Maritime Administrator Mr David Matsuda signed a Memorandum on Cooperation on Short Sea Shipping promotion and facilitation. Both the EU's White Paper on Transport and the US Marine Highway programme emphasise the potential of short sea shipping for clean and efficient cargo transport along intermodal logistics chains. The Memorandum marks the beginning of a regular exchange between the Directorate-General and the US Maritime Administration on ideas and best practices and will also allow both parties to jointly drive global discussions regarding maritime transport issues.

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Background

Road safety: EU crackdown on drivers committing traffic offences abroad

driving too fast

Drivers look set to be punished for traffic offences they commit abroad, including the four "big killers" causing 75% of road fatalities – speeding, running red lights, failure to use seatbelts and drink driving – under a proposal due to be voted on by the European Parliament on 6 July

EU figures suggest that foreign drivers account for 5% of traffic but around 15 % of speeding offences. Most go unpunished, with countries unable to pursue drivers once they return home.

The proposal

The proposal for a directive on cross-border enforcement in the field of road safety aims to remedy that situation. It targets traffic offences with a critical impact on road safety, including the four "big killers" causing 75% of road fatilities: (1) Speeding; (2) Failing to stop at traffic lights; (3) Failing to wear seatbelts; (4) Drink driving. As well as: (5) Driving under influence of drugs; (6) Failing to wear safety helmets; (7) Illegal use of an emergency lane; (8) Illegal use of a mobile phone while driving.

How will it work?

The proposal would enable EU drivers to be identified and thus prosecuted for offences committed in a Member State other than then one where their car is registered. In practical terms, the new rules will give Member States mutual access to each others' vehicle registration data via an electronic data exchange network to be put in place. This will allow for the exchange of the necessary data between the country in which the offence was committed and the country in which the car was registered. Once the owner's name and address are known, a letter to the presumed offender will be sent to him/her, on the basis of a model established by the proposed directive.

It will be for the Member State of offence (where the offence was committed) to decide on the follow up for the traffic offence. The directive does not harmonise either the nature of the offence nor the penalties for the offence. So it is the national rules in the Member State of offence, according to national law, which will continue to apply regarding both the nature of the offence and penalties.

What happens next?

The draft Directive will be formally adopted by Member States in the forthcoming weeks. After that Member States will have two years to transpose it in their national law before it comes into force. The EU Road Safety Action Programme 2011–2020, which was launched in July 2010, aims to cut the number or road deaths by half by 2020.

BACKGROUND INFORMATION – Cross-border enforcement

What is cross-border enforcement?

Pursuing and sanctioning traffic offences committed with a car that is registered in another Member State than the Member State where the offence has taken place.

What is the problem?

As things stand today, a driver committing an offence under the highway code in a car registered in another country of the European Union evades prosecution, with very few exceptions, because of the difficulty of identifying them or of being able to check the address to which the vehicle is registered.

Will the proposal harmonise traffic sanctions across the EU?

No. The proposal for a directive on cross border enforcement in the field of road safety does not harmonise either the nature of the offence nor the penalties for the offence. Those will be decided by the national law of the country where an offence was committed. It is also important to note that the proposal only deals with financial penalties; penalty points linked with a driving licence and withdrawing of a driving licence are not dealt with.

How will it work? How will this enable authorities to track down offenders from abroad?

By the application of an electronic data exchange network which enables national authorities to identify the holder of the car registration from other EU Member States. Once the owner's name and address are known, an offence notification, for which a model is established by the proposed directive, will be sent to him/her. It is up to the Member State of offence (where the offence was committed) to provide a translation of the letter sent in the language used in the car registration document.

What will happen if the offender is not the holder of the car certificate?

The offence notification which is sent to the holder of the car registration includes a reply form which gives him or her the possibility, to provide the relevant data for identifying the driver.

What will happen if the recipient just ignores the request?

There is already a Council Framework Decision on the mutual recognition of financial penalties which also covers road traffic offences. The Council framework Decision envisages that a final conviction to pay a fine by one Member State is recognised by the other Member States. The proposal for a directive on cross-border enforcement for road traffic offences applies to the earlier stages, as it aims at identifying the offender. But the Framework Decision will apply as a last resort in case of non-payment by the offender.

How significant are the problems caused by non-resident drivers?

Non-resident drivers represent around 5% of the road traffic in the EU, whereas the share in the EU of non-resident drivers committing speeding offences is 15%, of all speeding offences. A foreign registered car is also three times more likely to commit offences than a resident driver. In cases such as in France, where transit and tourism are high, speeding offences committed by non-residents can reach 25% of the total number of offences and go up to 40–50% during very busy periods of the year. In this context, the positive effects of this measure will be of particular interest for countries such as Austria, Belgium, Luxembourg, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Poland, and Spain. The measure should also have a strong deterrent effect, encouraging drivers to respect traffic law applicable in the host country. This measure, which aims at improving road safety, will also abolish the impunity of foreign drivers which currently creates a feeling of unfairness with regard to resident drivers and considerably reduces the public acceptance of enforcement. It ensures equal treatment of foreign and resident drivers.

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