For many Britons, a trip to Europe is part of their vacation routine. Driving on the continent is a convenient and economical way to travel. However, many drivers don’t realise that the rules around speeding in different European countries are very different than here in the UK. In fact, UK drivers could face fines of up to £640 from hidden speed cameras as they travel through Europe.
The new fine came into force in May this year, after a two-year exemption held by the UK came to an end. This had previously protected UK drivers from the full extent of fines and prosecution for speeding while driving on the continent. It means that countries can now track down British drivers when they return home.
The EU directive covers a total of eight motoring offences. These range from speeding to using a mobile phone while driving and failing to wear a seatbelt. Previously, the rules meant UK motorists would only face a fine when they were stopped roadside by the police, or if they hired a car from that country.
Now, the new rules allow European countries to get driver details through the DVLA database, which holds records on some 40 million vehicles. This allows countries to find the driver and send the fine.
Bizarrely, as things stand, the UK cannot do the same – foreign drivers caught speeding here can use a legal loophole to escape fines and punishment. This is because the directive is based on the idea that the vehicle’s registered owner is the one responsible for fines. However, in the UK it is the driver of the vehicle who receives the fine.
Motoring editor at Confused.com, Amanda Stretton, warned that drivers on the continent should be very aware of the traffic laws when driving there. This is even more important now European countries have the right to pursue drivers once they’re back home. Stretton advises,
“Now that authorities in EU countries can pursue UK drivers committing these offences, we hope motorists are extra careful to avoid breaking the rules.
“We’d advise all those hoping to take a trip to Europe this year to research the local driving rules and requirements before travelling.”
Speed camera rules
Speed cameras here in the UK have to be installed under specific circumstances. The driver must have a chance to see the camera and take action on their speed accordingly. However, the situation on the continent is very different.
In the Netherlands, for example, speed cameras are routinely hidden in wheelie bins on bin collection day. The aim is to catch drivers speeding or breaking other rules while driving on residential streets. In Spain, unmarked cars are used to mount speeding cameras that record information as they travel – with no way for drivers to know they are being filmed. Meanwhile in France, cameras are purposefully positioned in places that people can’t see, such as on the back of bridges.
Avoiding the cameras
There are steps that drivers can take to help reduce their level of risk. Technology means that they can now identify the position of stationary cameras, even when they’re hidden. Drivesmart Pro has recently added some 20,000 European locations to its speed camera database, allowing drivers visiting the continent to get the same kind of forewarning as in the UK. The software can also detect cameras up to 600m away and warn drivers to reduce speed accordingly. PetrolPrices members are currently able to enjoy a 30% reduction on the price of the Drivesmart Pro, making it just £89.99.
The company has said that the software will be updated every fortnight. Thus, as new cameras are added or existing ones relocated, the information will remain up-to-date and accurate. This helps drivers have insider knowledge of camera locations, which can save them from massive fines.
However, note that using a speed camera detector of any type is illegal in France and carries a €1,500 fine. In Germany it is illegal to have any form of speed camera detector in a moving vehicle. In other parts of Europe, GPS speed camera detectors like the Drivesmart Pro are legal to use, but Driversmart does advise to check the laws in the relevant country before purchasing and using.
The new DriveSmart Pro speed camera detection system is now available for 30% off the usual price, at just £89.99. It allows you to get advance warning that there is a speed camera on your route. That way, you can avoid those increased fines, points on your licence and the need to attend a speed awareness course.
What measures will you be taking to protect yourself from fines when next driving in Europe? Is it right that European countries can fine UK drivers for speeding by gleaning information from the DVLA? Share you views in the comments section below.