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Road safety: Clamp-down on traffic offences committed abroad

Brussels, 7 November 2013

From today, EU Member States will exchange information on drivers who commit traffic offences abroad, including the four "big killers" that cause 75% of road fatalities - speeding, running traffic lights, failure to use seatbelts and drink driving. This information exchange will ensure that foreign offenders can be pursued and punished across borders. It further improves the consistent enforcement of road safety rules throughout the EU by ensuring equal treatment of offenders. 

EU figures suggest that foreign drivers account for 5% of traffic but around 15% of speeding offences. Most have gone unpunished so far, with countries unable to pursue drivers when they return home.
European Commission Vice-President Siim Kallas, responsible for transport said: "We are making sure that people can no longer think that when they go abroad, traffic rules do not apply to them. I am certain that the new rules will have a powerful deterrent effect and change the behaviour of many motorists who will no longer be able to drive away from justice."

Estimates indicate that nearly 500 lives could be saved every year under a system where all drivers have to comply with traffic legislation, regardless of what country they are travelling in. The European Commission will be monitoring closely how the system is implemented and how effective it is regarding the identification and punishment of offenders.

The Cross-Border Enforcement Directive

The Cross-Border Enforcement Directive, which had to be transposed by today, enables EU drivers to be identified and thus prosecuted for offences committed in a Member State other than the one where their vehicle is registered. It gives Member States access to each other's vehicle registration data via an electronic data exchange network to be put in place.  Once the vehicle owner's name and address are known, a letter may be sent to the presumed offender, on the basis of a model established by the Directive. However, it is for the Member State where the offence was committed to decide on the follow-up.

The Directive does not harmonise the exact definition of the offences nor the system of sanctions for the offences. So it is the national rules in the Member State where the offence was committed, including multilateral or bilateral agreements and conventions, which will continue to apply regarding both the definition of the offences and sanctions.

The Directive targets traffic offences with a critical impact on road safety, namely:

1. Speeding
2. Failing to stop at traffic lights
3. Failing to wear a seatbelt
4. Drink driving
5. Driving under the influence of drugs
6. Failing to wear a safety helmet (for motorcyclists)
7. Illegal use of an emergency lane
8. Illegal use of mobile phone while driving


Background:

The EU Road Safety Action Programme 2011-2020, which was launched in July 2010, aims to cut the number of road deaths in half by 2020. It contains ambitious proposals focussing on making improvements to vehicles, infrastructure and road users' behaviour. For example, key recent initiatives besides the Cross-Border Enforcement Directive include:
• A new EU Driving Licence, since January 2013, with tighter rules for the access of young people to powerful motorbikes;
• National enforcement plans - submitted by Member States, providing a rich source of best practices;
• Work on developing an injuries strategy.

For more information on the programme and country-by-country statistics on road deaths see IP/13/236.