France is to issue “virtual licences” for British and other foreign motorists who will be banned from driving in the country if they lose them and have their cars confiscated if they flout the ban. The new system will also create a black list of foreign drivers who have failed to pay outstanding traffic fines.
The crackdown on foreign drivers was one of a series of measures the French government unveiled in a bid to reverse a worrying rise in the number of road accidents in France.
Accidents increased last year for the first time in 12 years. The French prime minister announced the country would also introduce 10,000 “fake” speed cameras to scare motorists into slowing down and experiment with drones to keep an aerial lookout for dangerous drivers. As part of its 22-point plan, France will also roll out an additional 500 “real” speed traps over the next three years bringing the overall total to 4,700. The prime minister stated the “virtual driving licence” for foreigners will function “exactly like a French licence” but he did not provide any further details in that regard.
Previously, it has proved difficult for them to track down those caught on camera because Britain opted out of a 2011 EU directive on road safety. However, Britain – along with Ireland and Denmark, which also opted out of the earlier Directive – will have until May 2017 to enforce the ‘new’ Directive into domestic legislation.
Under the new EU Directive outlined in April this year, British drivers caught on camera exceeding speed limits in France and other EU countries will no longer be able to avoid fines under new rules to come into force from 2017. The new Directive will also allow the UK authorities to target European motorists who commit offences in Britain.
Among the other French measures are tougher sentences for drivers using false licences or uninsured vehicles; a €650 (£480) penalty on companies who fail to communicate the name of an employee who commits a traffic offence in a company vehicle, and more widespread use of ignition interlock devices, or car breathalysers, for drink drive offenders.
British drivers who commit offences in cars hired in France already face fines, which can be taken from the credit card they used to rent the car.
The new EU Cross Border Enforcement Directive:
Cross Border Enforcement refers to the pursuit of traffic offences committed by drivers of a car which is registered in an EU Member State different than the one where they were detected. The purpose of the Directive is to offer an automated tool for enforcement authorities in the Member State where the offence was committed to pursue and fine the drivers of cars registered in other EU Member States when they commit traffic offences. The Directive presents an EU wide automated approach.
EU Member States must transpose the new legislation into their national law by May 2015 or risk facing EU infringement procedures. Three countries, UK, Ireland and Denmark have a later transposition deadline of May 2017.
Eight major road safety related offences are included in the text of the EU Directive:
- Not using a seatbelt;
- Not stopping at a red traffic light or other mandatory stop signal;
- Drink driving;
- Driving under the influence of drugs;
- Not wearing a safety helmet (for motorcyclists);
- Using a forbidden lane (such as the forbidden use of an emergency lane, a lane reserved for public transport, or a lane closed down for road works);
- Illegally using a mobile phone, or any other communications device, while driving.
The Directive will be most effective in following up offences which can be detected automatically, such as speeding and running red lights. The level of fines applicable will be the same as for drivers of cars registered in the country where the offence was committed.
Each of the EU Member States covered by the Cross Border Enforcement Directive have to designate a national contact point for the system. This contact point will grant access to the information exchange system for the identification of drivers committing one of the offences described above.
Upon detecting an offence, the contact point in that Member State grants access to the prosecuting authorities to perform a search through the information exchange system. They use the full licence plate number of the vehicle committing the offence.
Upon deciding whether to follow-up on the traffic offence in question, the authorities in the Member State of offence send an information letter to the owner of the registration certificate. This information letter has to be written in the same language as the registration certificate in the Member State of registration and it must include relevant information about the traffic offence – the nature of the offence, the date and time of detection, the article of the relevant piece of legislation infringed – and the legal consequences of the offence.