What is the EU Cross-Border Enforcement Directive – and what does it mean for me?

What is the EU Cross-Border Enforcement Directive – and what does it mean for me?
A new EU cross-border directive related to traffic offences comes into effect in the UK in May. We take a closer look at it and what it means to motorists in Britain.

What is the EU Cross-Border Enforcement Directive?

The directive is aimed at tracking down people who commit certain traffic offences in cars that are registered in an EU Member State different to where the offence was committed.

It aims to create an automated tool that would allow police forces and other enforcement authorities where the offence was committed to pursue and fine drivers of vehicles registered in other EU states.

Currently, there are a number of cooperation agreements in place for such situations, but these are often not suitable for cross-border traffic offences, which can be complex issues to deal with.

READ MORE: Germany may charge Brits £100 for road use

When can we expect it to start?

For many EU Member States the scheme has already been running for a few years.

From November last year, 23 out of the 28 Member States had rolled it out. And it is working. A recent report found that the number of such crimes investigated by authorities rose by four times.

On May 6, 2017, the scheme will be introduced into the UK, Denmark and Ireland. Only Finland and Portugal have not signed up so far.

EU Commissioner for Transport Violeta Bulc said: "Our evaluation shows that, thanks to the new automatic exchange of information, offenders are less likely to get away with dangerous behaviour.”

What does it mean in reality?

The directive covers eight specified offences – drink-driving, drug-driving, speeding, jumping red lights, forbidden lane contraventions, handheld mobile phone use, seat belts, and not wearing a helmet.

If you’re driving in a country that’s part of the directive and commit one of these crimes, it will become easier to prosecute you.. If people from different countries commit such crimes in the UK it should – in theory – be easier to track them down and prosecute them. However, in practice it may be more difficult.

The directive compels Member States to exchange the identity of the registered keeper or owner of a vehicle – as opposed to the identity of the driver – at the time of the offence.

This is called keeper liability. The UK – along with countries likes Ireland, Germany, Italy, Spain and Austria – runs a driver liability system. This means that for police authorities in the UK, it may be more difficult obtaining information of the driver if they are from another member state.

MORE ADVICE: Driving in France laws and guidelines

RAC spokesman Simon Williams said: “While we are supportive of the principle of cross-border law enforcement, we are fearful differences in Member State laws around whether the driver or the registered keeper of a vehicle is responsible following an offence will mean some EU drivers committing certain offences in the UK will wrongly escape punishment.

“In this sense the Cross-Border Enforcement Directive is a bit of a misnomer as it doesn’t create a level cross-border enforcement playing field.

“Of course, it’s right that any UK driver found to be breaking motoring laws in another European country will have to face the relevant penalty as this has been an unacceptable loophole for too many years, but equally, it is also right that any motorist in charge of a European-registered vehicle found to be exceeding a speed limit, or other such offence, in the UK should face the consequences in his or her own country.

“Unfortunately the application of the directive is simply not practical. In the UK it is the driver of a speeding vehicle who receives penalty points whereas in France it is the vehicle’s registered keeper who is deemed to be responsible.

"This means a French person caught speeding in the UK could get away with the offence if they were not the registered keeper of the vehicle concerned, as the French equivalent of the DVLA can only pass details of the offence to the keeper. This may make prosecution extremely hard for UK authorities.

“And if a UK driver is caught speeding in France in a vehicle they are not the owner of, they too might get away with the fine as the registered keeper in the UK would be pursued by the French authorities to pay.

"While the keeper can state in response they were not the driver, the big question is: will French authorities pursue and fine keepers who claim they weren’t driving at the time?

“The RAC has, however, been advised by the Department for Transport that there is no transfer of penalty points to UK drivers’ licences for speeding offences committed abroad.

“We strongly recommend every motorist travelling to Europe by car familiarises themselves with the local rules of the road as it is ultimately their responsibility to do so. The RAC website has a host of country-specific motoring advice in its News and Advice section.”

Copyright Press Association 2017. Motoring News articles do not reflect the RAC's views unless clearly stated.