EU motorist-fine treaty hits stumbling block

British motorists may face fines while other European motorists get away scot free

Travel Insurance News - 08/10/2009

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A discrepancy in the EU treaty to pursue fines for European motorists back in their home countries may mean that foreigners fined in Britain slip away free, while Britons fined abroad do not. The treaty comes into force today, and in principle will mean that countries will be able to track foreigners back in their home country to collect on fines issued in other European states.

However, currency rates have proved to be the first stumbling block in carrying out the policy effectively. A weakening sterling has lead to a situation where motorists fined in Britain for speeding and other offences fall below the treaty's threshold of 70 euro. According to the regulations in the treaty, only fines amounting to figures above 70 euros would be pursued.

At current currency exchange rates, the threshold sits at £64, four pounds higher than a standard speeding fine in Britain. This scenario could mean that overseas offenders may rarely face any action. This is an especially stark prospect, considering that in some parts of the UK, up to 40% of speeding tickets go to foreign drivers.

On the other hand, Britons travelling across the rest of Europe will have it pretty hard. Fines in most other European countries comfortably top the minimum threshold of 70 euros, so British drivers are most likely to be pursued for fine collection once they return home.

When the treaty was first decided, the pound had been much stronger, and the 0 euro threshold was easily covered by British fines.

Ironically, while it appears that British motorists will get the short end of the stick, it will be the British government that will actually profit most from the whole exercise. According to the stipulations in the treaty, each government collects the fines from its citizens on behalf of the other governments -- and keeps it. This means that governments from other countries will get little from their citizens being fined for motoring offences in Britain, but Britain will have a windfall from fines slapped on its own motorists in other countries.

Denmark, Czech Republic, Finland, Austria, Cyprus, Holland and Romania are among the other 12 countries that have signed up on the treaty.

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