7 Mar 23

New powers to enforce driving fines and bans in Europe

Company car and van drivers who commit road traffic offences in other EU member states will be tracked down and prosecuted, following the introduction of tougher cross-border enforcement of safety-related driving rules, unveiled this week by the European Commission (EC).

The EC says that 40% of cross-border offences are committed with impunity, totalling 6 million offences a year, either because authorities could not identify the offender or the country where the crime was committed could not enforce the penalty. On average, about 18% of all speeding offences are committed by non-resident drivers, according to the EC.

Moreover, under current rules, if a serious offence results in a driving disqualification, the ban cannot be enforced EU-wide if the driver committed the offence in a Member State other than the one that issued his or her driving licence.

Frans Timmermans, Executive Vice-President for the European Green Deal, said: “There will be less impunity for traffic offences committed in other EU Member States, while new administrative deadlines make sure drivers are not taken by surprise by a fine arriving many months after the fact.”

New offences

The EC also proposes that the scope of common road traffic offences within the EU should be expanded from speeding and drink-driving to include:

  • not keeping sufficient distance from the vehicle in front;
  • dangerous overtaking;
  • dangerous parking;
  • crossing one or more solid white lines;
  • wrong-way driving;
  • not respecting rules on the use of emergency corridors;
  • the use of an overloaded vehicle.

Digital licence

The new proposals include the introduction of a digital driving licence, accessible through a mobile phone or other digital device (pictured above), which would be recognised throughout the EU. This will make it easier for police forces to verify driving licences from different Member States and facilitate the disqualification of drivers on an EU-wide basis.

The digital driving licence will also make it easier for drivers from non-EU countries to exchange their driving licence for an EU licence, without having to re-take a test. Drivers from countries that the EC considers to have sufficiently high road safety standards will be able to exchange their licences for EU licences either without having to repeat training or testing. The EC has not yet confirmed the list of qualifying countries.

The introduction of the digital licence, proposed new measures will also give enforcement authorities access to national driving licence registers. The timeline for the digital driving licence has not been confirmed, but is likely to be in the second half of this decade.

Vision Zero

The sweeping measures form part of the EC’s Vision Zero campaign to eliminate road deaths within the EU by 2050. Last year, 20,000 people lost their lives in EU roads, the majority of whom were pedestrians, cyclists, scooter and motorbike riders.

The EC also proposes to update driving test rules to take account of zero-emission vehicles and advanced driving assistance systems (ADAS), with learner drivers instructed how to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions, as well as air and noise pollution.

Adina Vălean, European Commissioner for Transport, said: "Today’s package of proposals seeks to simplify rules on driving licences while adapting them to technological progress; to make sure that novice drivers are well trained and supported; that obstacles to cross-border mobility are eliminated; and that there is no impunity for those who break road safety rules across borders, through better cross-border exchange of information on traffic offences and driver disqualification for the most serious ones. Safe driving is crucial in our efforts to halve road deaths and serious injuries by 2030."

Images: Shutterstock, EC

Authored by: Jonathan Manning