January 1st 1973 saw changes within the UK, that nearly 50 years later still have ramifications; we became part of the European Economic Community. Strangely, a year after we voted ‘Leave’, the UK government were still signing up for schemes that tied us to Europe, in the form of the updated Mutual Legal Assistance scheme.
Essentially, the scheme (updated in 2017) allows foreign authorities to access driver records to pursue them for any motoring misdeeds while abroad. In total, 18 countries signed the new agreement, including France, Germany, Spain, Malta, Finland and Poland. While it covers a number of offences, the majority relates to speeding.
Mutual Legal Assistance
Forgetting the complexities, or rights and wrongs of Brexit, the system was designed to apply a more uniform structure to motoring, and the adherence of regulations throughout the European Union; whether you’re driving in Poland, or motoring through France, you still need to be mindful of the speed limits or any motoring laws that you may be breaking.
It just seems that some countries are a little more proactive when it comes to pursuing the offender.
Between February ’19 – June ’19, Finland requested the details of ownership just three times, Luxembourg were a little more proactive at 1,222 requests, Germany applied their usual Germanic efficiency with nearly 23,000 requests, but compared to France, their efforts were amateurish: 246,138 requests were made in the five-month period.
Driving in France
The high number can really only be attributed to two things – the French cameras are often unseen, or only seen at the very last minute, and the fact that their tolerances are much tighter. In the UK, we’re generally advised that the speed cameras are set at 10+2 – that’s 10% plus 2mph (which isn’t always the case), whereas in France, the trigger is set at just five percent over the limit.
In the UK, the cameras must be visible, for a distance enough to allow the driver to react, whereas in France (and a number of European countries), the camera can be set away from the road, hidden on a bridge or parked in such a manner that once you’ve noticed it, you’re too late.
Similarly, the Dutch are renowned for their ingenuity, one of their favourite hiding spots for example, is a wheelie bin by the side of the road, on bin day. You simply have no option but to comply with the limit if you don’t want to get a ticket. (And yet the Netherlands requested information just 96 times).
What will leaving Europe mean?
Currently, no one really knows whether or not the reciprocal arrangement will be active once we leave Europe, although it’s thought that as with many other motoring laws and legislation, it’s likely that it will remain in place, potentially as part of a strategy to minimise the ‘hardness’ of a hard Brexit.
But as we reported back in September 2017, despite it being called a reciprocal agreement, it isn’t very reciprocal; foreign drivers caught speeding in the UK can use a legal loophole to escape punishment, in the form of the agreement itself.
The (Euro-centric) agreement states that registered owner is responsible for all fines levied, but in the UK, it must be found that the driver is responsible, which means that a vast swathe of drivers are going unpunished, as no proof of the driver is available. Allied to that, is the fact that the UK police need to issue their NIP (Notice of Intended Prosecution) within 14-days, whereas in parts of Europe, the police can take up to a year for the same.
Personally, aside from the seemingly one-way interaction, I feel that this type of legislation can be a good thing – it gives drivers the chance to make the decision about their behaviour, their driving habits and what the possible outcomes could be. It actually encompasses the whole spirit of fairness, of doing the right thing, and allowing motorists a level playing field throughout Europe.
Despite being EU legislation, the sense of it is entirely British; you can’t get any more British than our inherent sense of fair play, and this legislation provides just that.
Have you ever been caught for a motoring offence abroad? What was the outcome? Do you feel that Brexit will mean less red tape? Let us know in the comments.
It has been known for 2 decades how the French authorities love to make money from motorists. If they were really concerned about safety they’d have to consider the traffic failure of L’arc de Triumph and the idea of priority of traffic on the right.
Access to UK information has been known about for years and given French toll charges and holiday queues, I just don’t think it is worth driving in France.
I wish there was statistics on requests from UK for this but I imagine this is too much like actual work from over-paid, low-calibre civil servants who long ago forgot how to serve.
I’ve been driving in mainland Europe since 1972. I’ve never had a problem but then again, I comply with the rules (same as here in the UK). E.g. If the urban speed ‘limit’ is 30mph (50kph in France) – comply. If the National speed limit is 70mph (up to 130kph in France) – comply. It’s really that simple. I love driving in France – a lot less stressfull than here in the UK…
What nobody has mentioned is that if you obey the speed limits in France, it Won’t be long before you get a queue of angry French drivers tailgating you trying to get you to go faster. They love honking their horns and shaking their fists
So let them pass
Why not think on your feet guys. Take some black electrical tape with you and disguise your real reg no. That way you will defeat the cameras and might only get noticed if directly followed by the feds. Then you can say “oh it must be kids” who did that. It’s all money raising under disguise of safety. I’ve seen many occasions when mobile police camera vans set up outside a school in the name of safety. BUT ON A SUNDAY …. really!!!
Too right – I treat driving on the continent as a bit of an exotic adventure and the last thing I want is stress about being caught by a speed camera, so I stay within the limits and try to enjoy the scenery as I go. The only time I’ve done something ‘dodgy’ was when I forgot to switch off the speed camera warnings on my satnav when I got off the ferry in France – how the French authorities know if you have such warnings enabled or not I’ve no idea, but as I have no intention of doing anything that might get me stopped by the gendarmerie, it’s surely irrelevant?
As for impatient locals on foreign roads, I just try to stay out of their way, much as I also try not to obstruct those trying to make good progress on UK roads.
Without casting aspersions upon the integrity of police in other countries, I tend to assume the worst of their law enforcement officers and if nothing else it’s an extra incentive to drive with care..
The iniquity of the imbalance in the rate of prosecuting bad foreign drivers in the UK compared to foreign action against UK drivers is something that needs addressing – I once met an Estonian chap on the ferry back to England in a 5-series BMW and ultimately bound for Ireland, who asked me about motorway speed policing and I told him that despite myriads of cameras he’d be OK as long as the police themselves didn’t catch him, because our system wasn’t geared up to deal with foreign speeders. Needless to say, he was off up the M20 at top speed as soon as he got out of Dover port and I bet he reached Holyhead before I reached Shropshire. There needs to be stricter policing on foreign-registered vehicles in the UK, but I’d bet my house that our ‘friends’ in France (Macron et al) will stop UK authorities from accessing EU driver data once we’re free of Brussels. Meanwhile goody-two-shoes UK authorities will continue to obligingly rat on any UK drivers nabbed on the continent.
You are out of date Liverboy-47 the National speed limit on single carriage roads in France is 80 kph, when it used to be 100 kph. This was imposed in the last couple of years to reduce deaths on French roads as they are such lousy drivers
I blame our Brit govt for signing up to this stupid deal..foreign drivers caught in the UK must surrender their passports on the spot ,and arrested forthwith.
Yeah as usual us Brits suffer whilst the eu residents get off scot free.
Roll on Brexit time to get our own laws back and make criminals suffer instead of play it up with their in-cell Led tellies , pool tables and luxury when it should be bread, water and the lash of the whip!
I can but dream!
How is it a level playing field with Brits very likely to get caught when abroad (even though that shouldn’t be the case as they should just comply with the rules) whilst other Europeans highly unlikely to get caught here? So many rules being broken with foreign reg vehicles and no one gives a damn. If the playing field was truly level then that would be just fine but as usual it isn’t. And people wonder why Brexit was voted for.
It’s not a level playing field. But, whilst not terribly relevent now, it’s important to note that the UK representatives agreed to the scheme and it’s inequalities. If you’re going to blame anyone make sure it’s the right people.
Having traveled France extensively over the years, the current crackdown on the British, is so easy. On many minor, non-motorway roads, the Speed Limit signage is non – existant. It is generally accepted, that when passing through a village or town, the limit is 50kph, sometimes lower by signage. When you pass the exit village sign, it reverts to the previous limit, which may be 110, or 90kph, however, on a “normal minor road, unless signed differently, is” usually 90kph, but because of the way the French Government. have appeased the reduction in speed limits, rather than be positive, they NOW give the Local Government the option of retaining the original 90kph limit, rather than the previous dictate of 80kph…..generally not signed or indicated… but generally “accepted”.
It would be difficult to try to ask a Gendarme, it he stops you for speeding, what the speed limit is when there is no sign….. OR if he stops you at 85kph, when there is not even a 90/80kph sign, but it is “accepted”.
I believe these variations are disigned to “catch” people rather than actually in prove safety….. If they were seriously interested in safety, the signage would be better.
So folks, forget speeding, stick to 2ks below the limit, that should give about 5 ks buffer, considering approx 3ks over reading on your speedo. My caravan /car combined MGW is in excess of 3500kg, which limits me to 90kph on Autoroute…. many other European drivers, apart from HGV’s, appear quite happy to travel in excess of 100ks, with their trailer happily wagging from side to side.
Be safe….. Travel 2ks below indicated Limit…. if there is one…. Happy Motoring in Europe!!
It’s not all about speed, in Spain you are not allowed to turn left if there is a solid white line you must go to the next roundabout and come back, also give way to people coming onto the round about, which has specific lanes as well
Yes we got caught and fined in Portugal, turning left over a ‘solid’ white line…which was so faint as to be nearly non-existent !!
If this website is truly about supporting the British motorist then why are they not campaigning for a similar reciprocal request for driver licence details from All EU countries, and a change in UK Law to close that loophole mentioned on here that foreign drivers use ?
I fell sure that if everyone who supports you saw and heard of your ‘battle’ on our behalf on issues like that, that we would be more proactive and become a more cohesive and powerful force to deal with.
Lived in France for a year a while back. The ordinary gendarmes were generally ok but the route police were like Nazis.
I once got stopped at a Peage for 3 hours because the police thought my UK trailer was not at the correct specification. It was just a way of telling me that they had all the cards. There was nothing wrong at all and in the end they sent me on my way.
Try to avoid them at all costs and stick to the rules.
Yes we really are soft in the UK I went to Italy for our holidays this year and therefore drove in/through 7 different countries. Only in Austria did I have any problems as it seems the motorists decipher the overhead gantry signs in a completely different way to the way the Germans do for exactly the same sign. What really appalled me though was on my return to England we disembarked the Euro tunnel having come over on the freight train to witness at least two very large lorries (one with a very large trailer sitting in the outside lane of a three lane motorway dong well over 70 mph. I watched them for several miles and they seemed to know they could do so with complete impunity. I can only assume the British police have totally given up monitoring such driving behaviour as what’s the point filling in all the paperwork if you can’t prosecute the driver. I bet if I had been breaking the law they would have soon been there to get me though!
I hate speed limits. It’s a money making legalised scam. The French are the champions at it. Can someone show me the stats where a so called speeding motorist cought on camera has caused an accident?
Obey the law and you have no problem and realise laws are different in different countries If you don’t you can be in big trouble as many are
I lived in Germany and Belgium for 10 1/2 years whilst working for the MOD. I never had any major issues, it’s just a case of following the laws although I did get caught speeding a few times, one entirely my fault (took 18 months!) and the other I could’ve challenged it but it would have been pointless. It baffles me how we’re all blaming the EU but it’s nothing to do with them; if you want our laws to be more strict then it’s our government that must change them. Some have mentioned priority right in France but many countries have this so be careful.
What this article fails to mention is that French drivers caught speeding in the UK are NOT pursued or ticketed back in France. Double standards…
Yet another good reason to leave the corrupt EU.
Well Jon what you say is rubbish, the reason why we don’t fine foreign motorists, is we can’t be bothered, plus we are not organised, for all this c**p technology we can’t even chase fines through the Dartford tunnel and grab them at Dover, simple, not for the English, they would rather screw their own, a real soft , oh my lay down and roll over, yes sir, three bags full sir.
So the French can make and enforce their own laws but you still seem to think that the UK aren’t in control of our own? Remember that the UK representatives agreed to the scheme noone forced them to. Blame the right people.
The article seems portray the British system of giving drivers time to react to speed cameras as a good thing – in contrast to the nasty Frenchies who are under the misguided impression that drivers should stick to the speed limit even when they cannot see a speed camera!
Having been a French resident for the past 12 years I have no sympathy with Brits who believe they are above the law. 12 out of 14 UK registrations checked from a supermarket car park came back as registered SORN. This way the owners pay no UK car tax, no UK insurance and do not comply with either the UK export or French import laws. So anybody having an accident with these lawbreakers need to call the Gendarmes. However ANPR cameras are now being used extensively and prosecutions are taking place, quite rightly so.
SORN has nothing to do with insurance and frankly further comments about matters of customs and excise have nothing to do with the core topic.
The bit about paid up VED is a matter of individual choice. You didn’t state why the UK government should profit from someone using a car abroad either but anyone using a car in Britain should have it taxed presumably to help fund nuclear weaponry.
Except that if it doesn’t have an mot equivalent, the insurance is invalid……
And the subject is breaking the law in Europe.
When you drive abroad you must follow that countries motoring laws if you don’t you can expect to be in trouble Simple !
Most of French speed cameras are down hills behind s tree ,sign,bush anyway you don’t see it until its to late even if you were doing the speed limit at the top of the hill
In Spain every junction on their motorways you go from 120 khp to 100 khp can you imagine that on our motorways and single carriageway roads have a similar reduction as well