Catching Up With Drivers Who Commit Offences Abroad

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Well, you might conclude that the likelihood of you being prosecuted is the same as that of an overseas driver being prosecuted here, if they did something wrong.

The truth is that the more grave the offence committed is, the more likely it is that the police abroad will be determined to prosecute you. The European Commission is going to take steps to make this much more likely. It recognises that there are four big killers that cause 75% of road fatalities:

• speeding,
• failing to stop at traffic lights,
• failing to wear seatbelts
• drink driving.

One way of making it easier for the police abroad to do this is to make it easier for them to identify who the driver is. If the vehicle is stopped by the police at the time, then the driver can obviously be identified. Where a vehicle does not stop at the time, then the solution is to check with the Hire Car company if the vehicle was hired. However, where it is your vehicle and obviously UK registered, that is a problem. At the moment, the police in say Germany, Spain or Italy would have to request information from DVLC's database and would not have automatic access to it.

The European Commission is therefore seeking to implement a shared electronic database for Member States to access each others' registration data in order to ensure the potential for prosecution as a valid deterrent.

European Commission Vice-President Siim Kallas, responsible for transport underlined the need for an EU wide agreement saying "A foreign driver is three times more likely to commit an offence than a resident driver. Many people seem to think that when they go abroad the rules no longer apply to them. My message is that they do apply and now we are going to apply them."

It would have to implement this by way of an EU Directive, which if passed, would require the UK to bring in legislation freeing up access to DVLC's records within 2 years. However, it is not intended to harmonise driving records, offences or penalties and so a conviction in Holland for say speeding, would NOT mean you would get points on your UK licence.

There are clearly some strong public interest grounds for being able to trace and prosecute offending drivers across the EU. However, there are also risks associated with freeing up access to DVLC's database and access to this information is currently protected by robust legislation in the form of the Data Protection Act 1998 and enforced by the Information Commissioner. The worry is that data could get into the hands of organised criminals and critics would need to be convinced that sufficient protections were put in place.

Daniel Scognamiglio
Partner and Team Leader - Travel Team

For further information, please contact Blake Lapthorn solicitors' Travel team by telephone 023 8085 7423 or email

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