A new EU cross-border directive, designed to help police tackle eight of the most common traffic offences, will come into force in the UK on Saturday (6 May).
The new directive, which is already in place in 23 of the 28 EU member states, uses an automated tool to help police track down those who commit traffic offences in cars that are registered in a different member state to where the offence itself was committed.
The tool allows police in participating countries to exchange the identity of the registered vehicle owner, as opposed to the identity of the driver – which has led to the RAC raising doubts about its effectiveness.
This is down to ‘keeper liability’ – in essence where the blame lies. For example, whereas in the UK it is the driver of a speeding vehicle who receives penalty points, in France it is the vehicle’s registered keeper who is deemed to be responsible.
While supportive of the principle, the RAC is ‘fearful’ that differences in laws will mean some EU drivers committing certain offences in the UK will wrongly escape punishment.
However, Violeta Bulc, the EU commissioner for transport, says evaluation shows that ‘offenders are less likely to get away with dangerous behaviour’.
The directive covers eight specified offences: drink-driving, drug-driving, speeding, jumping red lights, forbidden lane contraventions, handheld mobile phone use, seat belts, and not wearing a helmet.
Simon Williams, RAC spokesman, said: “While we are supportive of the principle of cross-border law enforcement, we are fearful differences in member state laws around whether the driver or the registered keeper of a vehicle is responsible following an offence will mean some EU drivers committing certain offences in the UK will wrongly escape punishment.
“In this sense the Cross-Border Enforcement Directive is a bit of a misnomer as it doesn’t create a level cross-border enforcement playing field.”