Cross-border speeding fines

There was a time when you could go abroad in your own car and just put your foot down and not worry about speeding fines. Cameras could flash all they wanted but they wouldn't find you and even if the police stopped you, chances are they would not want to be bothered with all the complicated paperwork and language barriers.

Those days are gone!

Visitors in a country with foreign-registered cars will no longer be immune from fines for speeding and other motoring offences, after the European parliament approved new rules to take effect this year. The new system of cross-border driving fines will make it easier for all 27 EU member states to swap car registration details if an offence is committed outside a driver's home country. Bilateral agreements have been in place for a while in some countries but the rest of the EU is progressively signing up with a deadline for implementation by 7 November 2013.

The European Commission suggest that foreign drivers account for 5% of road traffic but 15% of speeding offences, and that a foreign driver is three times more likely to commit an offence than a resident driver.

Offences punishable under the directive include the four major killers responsible for 75% of road fatalities - speeding, drink driving, failing to wear a seatbelt and failing to stop at traffic lights. Also driving under the influence of drugs, illegal use of an emergency lane, using a mobile phone while driving, or failing to wear a safety helmet on a motorbike or scooter. The offender's home country would provide car registration details electronically to the country where the offence took place and fines will be based on those that apply in that country. Each country remains free to set its own fines according to national law. European drivers must now respect the rules of the road for the country in which they are driving.

Looking blank and saying 'me no-understandy' won't work either as many European police officers are now speaking more than one language.

Although the UK has currently opted out, around 2500 British motorists are contacted each month with fines issued by the authorities in European countries as a result of information passed to them by UK authorities. They can even face court action in the UK or have their car put on a blacklist - meaning it would be impounded if they returned to the country where the ticket was issued.

In France, the figures for foreign drivers are far higher. Foreign heavy goods vehicles alone account for 28% of all traffic on France's roads and are involved in 14% of fatal accidents - this is an area that France is looking to crack down on. Recent statistics also show that one quarter of all vehicles flashed by France's army of speed cameras are on foreign plates. This problem is even worse in the height of the summer tourist season when that figure rises to half.