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British drivers in Europe to escape speed camera fines (and vice versa)

The UK's departure from the EU means British drivers snared by speed cameras on roads in Europe will no longer be sent fines. And those Britons, resident in the EU, who return to the UK in foreign registered cars will also avoid fines.

British drivers in Europe to escape speed camera fines (and vice versa)
Speed cameras in France have snared tens of thousands of British drivers. AFP

As a member of the EU, Britain had signed up to a directive that allowed member states to share the contact details of those caught by speed cameras.

The directive was introduced because data revealed that a high percentage of speeding offences were committed by foreign drivers who were escaping the financial penalties.

Naturally Britain's departure from the EU on January 1st means that for the foreseeable future British holidaymakers and second-home owners driving in EU countries will not be issued fines if they are snared.

The same goes for drivers of EU-registered cars travelling on roads in the UK who are caught speeding or committing other driving offences caught on camera.

Since Britain signed up to the directive and began the data sharing in 2019, hundreds of thousands of British holidaymakers have been fined.

In France alone some 444, 378 fines were sent to British drivers in 2019 which according to French driving site Caradisiac was the equivalent of between €30 to €60 million.

With such big sums of money at stake it's no surprise some EU countries are intent on negotiating bilateral agreements with the UK to ensure contact details are shared in future.

“We will initiate bilateral negotiations with the UK, in order to reach an agreement like we have with Switzerland,” a French Interior Ministry spokesperson told Caradisiac.

But the UK is unlikely to be a in rush to enter into those talks, not least because of the ongoing pandemic that has crippled travel to and from the EU, but also because it just might not be worth it financially.

The UK avoided signing up to the cross-border directive for many years because it believed it just wasn't profitable to process the fines abroad given the relatively small number of European-based drivers caught speeding in the UK.

For certain EU countries like Spain and France where British holidaymakers and second-home owners often travel by car, it's a different matter.

British drivers who are pulled over by local police in the EU for speeding or other offences will still have to pay their fines, however.

France's ministry of interior lamented the fact that Britain was no longeIn a statement to The Local a spokesperson said: “The purpose of the directive is to put an end to the impunity of motorists who commit offences in a Member State other than that of their residence, to improve road safety throughout the EU and to guarantee the equal treatment between drivers whether or not they are residents of the Member State where the offence was committed.

Through this exchange system, Member States can identify the owners of vehicles with which the infringement has been committed in their territory and send them notifications of infringements.”
 

Reminder

The 2015 European Directive, nicknamed Cross-Border Directive does not only target drivers caught on camera speeding or running red lights.

It covers six other offences:

  • failure to wear a seat belt
  • driving while intoxicated
  • driving under drugs
  • the non-wearing of a helmet by two-wheeler drivers
  • driving on a prohibited lane
  • mobile phone use while driving

 

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BREXIT

UK driving licences in Spain: When no news is bad news

The UK Ambassador to Spain has given an update on the driving licence debacle, with nothing new to genuinely give hope to the thousands of in-limbo drivers whose increasing frustration has led one group to try and take matters into their own hands.

UK driving licences in Spain: When no news is bad news

It’s been almost five months since UK driving licence holders residing in Spain were told they could no longer drive on Spanish roads. 

Since that fateful May 1st, an unnamed number of the approximately 400,000 UK nationals who are residents in Spain, as well as hundreds if not thousands of Spaniards and foreign nationals who passed their driving test in the UK, have not been able to use their vehicles in Spain or even rent one. 

What adds insult to injury is that British tourists visiting Spain can rent a car without any issue. The fact that Spanish licence holders living in the UK can also continue to exchange their permits in the UK 21 months after Brexit came into force is equally hard to swallow.

READ MORE: ‘An avoidable nightmare’ – How UK licence holders in Spain are affected by driving debacle

The latest update from UK Ambassador to Spain Hugh Elliott on September 27th has done little to quell the anger and sense of helplessness felt by those caught in this bureaucratic rabbit hole.

“I wanted to talk to you personally about the driving licences negotiations, which I know are continuing to have a serious impact on many of you,” Elliott began by saying.

“As the government’s representative in Spain, I hear and understand your frustrations. I too am frustrated by the pace.

“We previously thought, we genuinely thought, that we’d have concluded negotiations by the summer. 

“Many of you have quite rightly mentioned that I expressed the hope to you that we’d have you back on the road by the end of July.

“Now the truth is it has taken much longer, as there have been unforeseen issues that we have been working very hard to resolve. 

“And I’m as disappointed as you are by the length of time that this is actually taking. 

“But, please, be assured that we are resolving those issues, one by one. There are only a couple of issues left, but they are complex.”

It has previously been suggested by the UK Embassy that Spain has asked for data provision to form part of the exchange agreement, and that British authorities were reluctant to share said information on British drivers’ records, including possible infractions. 

Whether this is still one of the causes of the holdups is unknown, given how opaque the Embassy is being in this regard. 

“We’re working on this every day, it remains a priority,” the UK Ambassador continued.

“There is a lot going on behind the scenes, even if it doesn’t feel like it to you. 

“I know too that you want a timescale and you want an update after every meeting.

“But I’m afraid I just can’t give you those things in this negotiation.” 

The ambassador’s words are unlikely to appease those who are still unable to drive. 

A few weeks ago, a Facebook group called “Invasion of the British embassy in Madrid for the DL exchange issue” was set up, which so far has more than 400 members. 

The group’s administrator, Pascal Siegmund, is looking to set up a meeting with the British Embassy and Spanish authorities to shed light on the impact that not being allowed to drive is having on the life of thousands of UK licence holders in Spain. 

Many of those affected are sharing their stories online, explaining how, due to administrative errors on the part of Spain’s DGT traffic authority, they were unable to process their licence exchange before the deadline. 

This contrasts with the little sympathy shown by UK licence holders who were able to exchange and other commentators, who accuse those in limbo of not having bothered to complete the process, arguing that it’s essentially their own fault.

READ ALSO: Not all Brits in Spain who didn’t exchange UK driving licences are at fault 

“Many of you also continue to ask why you can’t drive while the talks are continuing,” Elliott remarked.

“It is not in the gift of the UK government to reinstate the measures which previously allowed you to continue to drive whilst the negotiations were ongoing earlier in the year. 

“As we said previously, we did request the reinstatement of those measures several times, but this wasn’t granted.”

It’s worth noting that since the news broke on May 1st that UK licence holders residing in Spain for more than six months could no longer drive, no Spanish news outlet has covered the story again. 

Pressure from citizen groups such as the one recently set up and increased awareness about the issue in English-language news sites such as The Local Spain is perhaps the best chance in-limbo drivers have of their voices being heard and the driving licence debacle being finally fixed. 

“I’d say we’re genuinely still making progress,” UK Ambassador Elliott concluded, practically the same message as in previous updates.

“I get how frustrating it is to hear that, but we are making progress. We’re in discussions almost daily about outstanding issues. 

“And I remain very optimistic that we will reach an agreement and hope it will be soon. 

“But as I say, I can’t give you a definitive timetable. 

“And so, the advice that we have been giving all along, which is that you should consider taking the Spanish test if you do need to drive urgently, remains valid. Though we appreciate that’s hard.”

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