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United Kingdom

French police demand details for 210,000 British drivers in 2019 already

British holidaymakers are being warned not to flout traffic laws in France this summer, as new rules mean the chance of escaping unpunished for speeding are significantly slimmer than before. 

Under an agreement called Mutual Legal Assistance, European police forces can request details of British-registered vehicle owners caught speeding or committing other motoring offences in their countries from the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency to issue fines.

And according to new data, the DVLA has received more than 210,000 of these requests from the French gendarmes between February and May this year.

No escape: French police have already requested the details of more than 210,000 British drivers who have broken motoring laws in their country since the start of 2019, according to a new report

The UK signed up to the MLA scheme in May 2017.

The alliance makes it much easier for police from different countries to co-operate and share details about drivers who have broken laws in nations they don't live in.

A foreign police force can apply to the UK authorities for the driver information and under the MLA system the DVLA must supply their details.   

Automated fines are then sent to motorists in the post. 

A recent report said that almost 2,000 requests for British drivers' details were requested by foreign police by the end of 2017, however, it seems this has accelerated massively in recent months.

Figures obtained under a Freedom of Information request by AlcoSense Breathalysers reveal that French authorities alone had asked for the details of 212,878 in four months to the end of May 2019.  

A spokesman for the French Interministerial Delegate for Road Safety confirmed that: 'Non-payment of the fine leads to legal proceedings, regardless of nationality. There's no impunity.'

British drivers are being warned that they be pursued at a later date for a variety of offences committed in France.  

Under the MLA (Mutual Legal Assistance) scheme, the DVLA has to give the details of the owner of a British registered vehicle to foreign police who have identified that the driver has committed an offence

The majority of inquiries issued are related to road traffic misdemeanours such as speeding, running red lights and using mobile phones at the wheel

In addition to standard breaches such as speeding and drink driving, other French motoring laws include a ban on the use of headsets or headphones while driving, and the requirement to carry a spare pair of glasses if they're needed behind the wheel.

There are also specific items that all motorists are obliged by law to carry in or around their car and failure to have them can land you in hot water.

These include a high viz jacket for every passenger, a warning triangle, spare bulbs, headlamp beam deflectors, a GB sticker and a single-use 'NF approved' breathalyser.

Of course, most of these would require being stopped by the police and a fine would be issued on the spot, meaning requests for details are unlikely - although those who do not pay up for these may be included in the figures. 

The drink drive limit is also lower in France, at 0.5mg of alcohol per millilitre of blood (0.25 milligrams per litre of breath) - compared with 0.8mg (0.35 milligrams per litre of breath) in England and Wales.

Drivers with under three years experience are subject to an even lower 0.2mg limit in France (0.10 milligrams per litre of breath).

Once a vehicle owner's details are handed to French police they can then issue fines in the post

'British motorists are required by law to carry an NF approved breathalyser in France, and it can prove vital to self-test the next day to make sure you're under the lower drink drive limit,' comments Hunter Abbott, managing director of AlcoSense Laboratories. 

The French Parliament has also adopted legislation to create a 'virtual penalty points driving licence' for foreigners not resident in France who commit traffic offences.

Expected to come into force within months, British drivers will lose points on their 'licence' just like a French national. Losing all 12 points would lead to an automatic driving ban in France. 

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