EU plans cross border database of rogue motorists
Votre carte, Monsieur Clarkson
Are you one of those safe-as-pie drivers, who tootles merrily along the by-ways of this green and pleasant land, before turning into Mr Demon Boy Racer the moment you cross the Channel? Or do you simply tut grumpily over your breakfast, as you open your Daily Mail and read of yet another Johny Foreigner abusing the hospitality of our road system? And getting off scot free for the most egregious of motoring offences?
Either way, all that is about to change, as the European Parliament sets its sights on those drivers who think they can commit motoring offences with impunity - just so long as its in someone else's country.
On Tuesday, the European Parliament's Transport Committee voted overwhelmingly in favour of a draft directive, which would make it easier for national authorities to fine drivers from other EU countries for offences committed on their territory. Initially, this measure will be targeted at four offences - speeding, drink-driving, non-use of a seatbelt and failing to stop at a red traffic light - which currently account for some for 75 per cent of road deaths.
Over time, however, MEPs are interested in extending the law to cover other traffic infringements such as driving whilst under the influence of drugs, using mobile phones or uninsured.
The scheme would be facilitated by "an electronic data exchange network". EU states would identify the holder of a vehicle registration document and forward the traffic offence data to the driver's national authority. They would then send the vehicle owner notice of an offence committed, requesting payment of a fine.
This proposal is part of a European Commission initiative to halve road deaths in Europe between 2001 and 2010. So far - despite significant reductions in France and Portugal - they are not doing too well. Road deaths across the 27-member EU bloc have fallen from 54,000 at the start of the decade to 43,000 in 2007, which makes the target of reducing the total to 27,000 within the next two years especially challenging.
There are huge disparities in road safety within the region. On the whole, road travel is most dangerous in Greece and the countries of Central and Eastern Europe. You are three times more likely to die on the roads in Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia than in Sweden and the Netherlands, which have among the safest roads in Europe.
The vote on this proposal was carried by 49 in favour, with none against and one abstention. Speaking afterward, the Committee's rapporteur, Spanish Socialist Inés Ayala Sender, highlighted the issue of perceived unfairness in local communities, who saw 'outsiders' getting away with crimes for which locals would be punished. According to Ms Ayala: "With this directive we provide Member States' authorities with an instrument that could end EU foreigners' impunity ... we say no to first and second league's citizens."
The draft measures will now be passed to the EU Council for debate on 9 October and, assuming no major objections, could be approved by 8 December. Member states will then have two years in which to implement the measures.
Meanwhile, fears that this could be a trojan horse for Europe-wide databases of drivers or a slippery slope towards a Brussels-run ID card scheme are probably ill-founded. This is a transport measure, emerging from a transport committee.
That said, the European Justice and Home Affairs Committee already boasts of cross-border measures put in place (or proposed) for legal aid, claims, organised crime, fraud and cooperation on policing.
Mike Nattrass, UKIP MEP for the West Midlands and Member of the EU Parliament Transport Committee is less confident. Responding to this vote, he added:
“It is the super-state ruling as the super-state. This sort of thing is happening in every other committee and this is what UKIP is fighting against. UKIP wants to restore legitimacy to Westminster government who are no longer ruling the country.”
And lastly - some might think ironically - the EU will celebrate its second road safety day on 13 October 2008 in Paris. ®