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Common Driving Offences Abroad

By: Garry Crystal - Updated: 4 Nov 2020 | comments*Discuss
Driving Abroad Foreign Countries Driving

Driving abroad without learning the rules of the road of foreign countries can often land UK drivers in hot water. UK motorists should always research the driving rules of any country abroad to avoid being fined or penalised once back in the UK.

Researching the Rules of the Road Abroad

Driving abroad isn’t just a case of driving on the right hand side of the road. Many foreign countries have their own driving rules that UK motorists are not generally familiar with. One example is the difference in Drink Driving limits abroad; many European countries have a much lower limit than the UK. In Belgium it is against the law to use cruise control. These are just a few examples of motoring offences abroad that can leave UK motorists paying the price abroad or when back home.

UK Motorists Fined in the UK for Offences Abroad

UK motorists who do break foreign motoring laws can still be chased for penalties and fines once back in Britain. Many motorists driving abroad who have committed offences such as parking or speeding violations assume they are free and clear once they are back in the UK. But the DVLA will pass on the UK driver’s details to any foreign country that requests it to follow up on motoring offences. Some countries also use hefty on the spot fines for motorists who violate their road laws. France is seen as the number one country for pursuing foreign motorists who commit motoring offences in their country.

Options Open to Foreign Countries Pursuing UK Motorists

The UK DVLA will be the first point of call when foreign governments decide to pursue UK motorists for driving offences. The DVLA are able to send out tickets to motorists in the UK on behalf of foreign countries. All European Union countries are legally committed to following up unpaid fines incurred by UK motorists when abroad. UK drivers who are convicted of serious driving offences while abroad may be subject to a Complete Ban. Motorists who use hire company vehicles will not escape as hire companies will pass on the motorist’s details if they have committed an offence abroad.

Research Driving Rules Abroad

Any motorist who is considering driving abroad should familiarise themselves with the rules of the road of the intended country. There are many websites available that will provide driving abroad information, rules and driving laws. Each country will have their own specific driving laws. The simple act of crossing country borders in Europe could mean a change in the driving laws. It is important to research all the rules of each country where driving abroad is intended.

Common Driving Offences Abroad

Parking and speeding are two of the most common driving offences abroad. Many countries will use on the spot fines for a range of motoring offences, and these fines can be hefty. Spain uses on the spot fines for parking and speeding offences, not wearing a seat belt and not having proper vehicle documentation. Non-residents who commit these offences in Spain can be hit with an on the spot fine of as much as 302 euros, that’s £257. Spanish residents are not subject to on the spot fines simply because non-residents have a tendency to leave the country without paying the fine.

Examples of Driving Laws Abroad

Driving abroad is not simply a case of remembering to drive on the right side of the road. Foreign countries have a number of different motoring rules that may seem strange to UK motorists. A small sample of driving laws abroad:

  • Motorists who drive 25km above the speed limit in France can have their licence confiscated on the spot
  • Overtaking a school bus letting children off in Germany can lead to prosecution
  • Driving without dipped headlights is an offence in Austria
  • Special permits are required to drive through low emission zones in Germany
  • Driving through historic zones known as ZTLs in Italy even by mistake can mean multiple fines
  • Dipped headlights when poor daytime visibility exists is compulsory in France
  • Children under the age of 13 are not permitted to sit in front seats in Switzerland
  • Headlamp converters are compulsory in Germany, France and Italy
Driving in foreign countries can be hazardous for drivers who have not taken the effort to research the rules of the road abroad. Five million UK motorists cross the channel every year and many come back to find driving fines waiting for them in the letterbox. It does not take much time to research the driving laws of other countries; the alternative could be hefty fines or worse.

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I have just received two speeding fines from France. One for €45 and other €95. I was in France but think I adhered to the speed limit. The car in question is not registered to me at my address but my Ltd company. I know I won’t receive penalty points but don’t want to pay the fines either !!! No photographic evidence was included with them Any ideas??
Pipso - 19-Sep-20 @ 1:53 PM
I have recieved an email about over speeding in France; what will happen if i dont pay the fine
James - 28-Aug-19 @ 1:33 PM
If I get caught speeding in France do I: Receive penalty points on my UK licence? I've read I may receive a fine but I have no clarity on penalty points ????
J - 9-Aug-19 @ 5:59 AM
Any idea on running a red light. Never ever happened to me before in 12 years of driving. After driving 6 hours in France. In the final 10 minutes of our journey, I got really confused at some lights and was honked aggressive from behind. I assumed this meant I needed to go through. Then suddenly found I didn't and the other traffic was honking and yelling at me. It was a genuine mistake. Any idea what will happen? Fine? Points on my UK license? We are supposed to be on holiday relaxing but it's playing heavily on my mind. Would sooner know what to expect
Kerrianne - 29-Jul-19 @ 9:44 PM
Pulled up yesterday, caught by speed gun,90 in a 50 zone, i dont recall seeing any speed markers and the road felt like a country road. They kept my licence took all my passport/address details. He then took me to the cashpoint i gave him €135. Went back to my vehicle speeding as he knew i had to make it back to the tunnel. He told me i couldn't drive and i was band from driving in france for 3 months. He called for me a tow truck to take me to the tunnel and from there i could drive into the check in points. I had to pay for the tow truck (€395)before we set off for a 90min drive. My 12y old son was with me all the while worried and needing a pee. Iam really sad as the french were very nice on our trip, now iam afraid we wont bother going back and i think its cost me enough and iam not paying the fine. I think my punishment already is above what i deserve.
Boris - 27-Apr-19 @ 5:38 PM
Hey everyone Just received penalty from French’s authorities about exceed speed limit , it’s happen last August 2018 My only question , will I have points on my license after paying the penalty ??? Many thanks
Hadji Benharrats - 22-Apr-19 @ 7:16 PM
Hi. I've just been sent a violation notice dated 26/03/2019 for speeding on 18/10/2018. Only difference is I have NEVER been to France and have never taken my car abroad. I've shown it to my local police and they think my car registration plate has been cloned. The violation notice has our car reg and make of car. But not the model or colour. I do not know how to appeal because the exemption form shows case no. 1 vehicle stolen, case no. 2 loan or rental or case no. 3 other reason. Well it's no. 3 other reason. But in order to appeal the form says you have to send a deposit of 68 euros!!! which I am not prepared to do. The local police and DVLA have said to send any information to ANTAI that shows we were not in France neither us or our car and don't pay any money. Which I was just about to do. Then I found this page. Has anyone else had experience of this? And are we sure that these letters are genuine? Bearing in mind that they are 6 months late!! Are there no experts who can verify how long the French have to send out a speeding fine? And what do you do if you have been Cloned?
Blackbird - 20-Apr-19 @ 9:37 AM
Me too! Ticket arrived today April 9th, issued 28/3/2019 ( the day before Brexit was due to occur!!)for a violation in October 2018. I’d love to know whether too much time has passed for this to be enforceable. If I pay will I be used points?
Poppy68 - 9-Apr-19 @ 9:17 PM
I've just had this happen too. Speeding fine dated 27 March 2019 for speeding in France on 19 October 2018. Pretty weird this, a five month delay. Pre-Brexit attempt to get money by French traffic cops? I was only going 1kmh over the limit too apparently. I was about to pay the fine online, and then remembered that here in the UK they can only fine you within 14 days of the offence. So I am going to wait a while and think about it, see what everyone else comes up with!
john - 9-Apr-19 @ 8:40 PM
What about when returning to France.I probably am in France at least a couple of times a year so is there a risk on re-entering in the future, having not paid, being met with a larger fine?
Seelie - 9-Apr-19 @ 3:36 PM
Dont bother paying these fines.If not caught on the spot they become unenforceable!! The french will try anything for you to pay them - Bottom line is they can find out who the car belongs too but they cannot track the driver. Read below from April 2019 - You will notice no mention of UK "If you have committed an offence against the Highway Code in a foreign country, you are liable to receive the same penalties as those that can be delivered to nationals of the country in question. You will then receive a offence notice from this country. If you must pay a fine in the country where you committed the offence and if you have not paid this fine on the spot, you can be prosecuted in accordance with the agreements signed between France, Luxemburg, Switzerland, Belgium, Spain, the Netherlands, Germany, Poland, Romania, Italy, Austria, Hungary and Slovakia."
Echo - 8-Apr-19 @ 3:59 PM
Ditto sounds like the French are calling in fines from last year 2018, my fine is also going 86 in an allowed 80 kmp area. I think the speed signs hadn't been changed from 90 to 80 and maybe the road signage is still at odds in places I would like to know what the legal position is in France concerning the issuing of speeding fines and why so many of us are receiving these now for 2018 offences, coincidence Interested in reading any info on this
Jen - 7-Apr-19 @ 7:39 PM
Found this from another website: ' Don’t rely on the 14-day rule In the UK, if the speeding fine doesn’t arrive within 14 days of committing the offence, it can’t be enforced. In Italy though, the authorities can issue a fine up to a year out. And as it is the local countries laws you have broken, it is their laws under which fines are issued and complied with.' Having just received a fine myself this week from Oct 18 I think going to have to pay as don't have much else to argue against it. Does feel like a mass collection of fines that have built up and they're worried if they don't act Brexit might mean it impossible to pursue them easily after it.
Seelie - 5-Apr-19 @ 8:00 PM
Just received a speeding fine from France aswell got back on the 18th October 2018, issued on 26/03/2019, I didn’t think we exceeded the speed limits but I have paid it, I’m not sure if we get points on our licence, me and my husband drove over there, so am not sure which one of us it was! This has taken a very long time to get to us and wasn’t sure if it was real first!
Sweet14 - 5-Apr-19 @ 1:17 PM
Virtually exactly the same question 116 in a 110km/h, notice date 25/3, 168 days after the offence. No one seems to respond to if a maximum time limit is required in France. Does anyone know?
Nala - 4-Apr-19 @ 11:02 PM
Looks like I'm not alone here ! Got a Violation Notice today 4th April for a speeding offence on 14th October 2018 near Toulouse . Like other posters I have searched the internet and can't find any information on the time allowed for the French to issue these fines , so I don't know what my next step is going to be , after all it is 14 days in the UK.Anyone know for sure ?
Richard Colbeck - 4-Apr-19 @ 7:47 PM
Received 2 fines today from October last year! No idea the speed limit had reduced and no idea how to contest it or even if i can considering how old it is. Is anyone able to help on where i stand?
JenniW - 4-Apr-19 @ 3:26 PM
I have just received today a violation notice for 24/10/2018. Letter is dated 27/03/2019 What is the legal time limit for traffic violations in France? I know in the UK it's 14 days but should I pay this?
Donz - 4-Apr-19 @ 10:59 AM
Hi guys. Just opened two separate letters from France stating that I was speeding last Oct 2018. I was driving in France then. Is 6 months too late to be pay this fine.
DTH - 3-Apr-19 @ 7:02 PM
I have just received a speeding fine from France today and like many of the previous contributors, this one is also for 86km in an 80km zone. It dates from early October last year and whilst I remember the day in question, I cannot recall if the speed limit signs still stated 90km as many had still not been replaced then. I am unsure as to whether to pay or not as I am returning to France for a visit next week and do not want any complications. However, I do have until mid May for the 'reduced fine' payment to be made and of course in all of this Brexit looms large! Should I pay before I make the trip to avoid a higher fine if I'm stopped in the country or should I wait until I'm there and check the signs on that particular portion of road? Any advice would be gratefully received.
rb - 3-Apr-19 @ 11:55 AM
It looks like the French are having a spray I also received two speeding tickets 2 days apart from the 3rd and 5th of September last year over 7 months later we received these tickets have been trying to find out how long does it take for the French authorities to let you know if you have committed a road offence in this country the authorities must tell you within 14 days but I cannot find anything to tell me how long have the French authorities got before they issue tickets I have travelled France over many years and never received a speeding ticket I don't believe I was speeding but most tickets are telling me I was doing 5 and 6 km over the 80 km speed limit which I think was 90 at 7 months have passed and I cannot be sure if anyone knows the period of time that the authorities have to let you know please tell me
Bob - 21-Mar-19 @ 1:21 PM
I've just had 2 fines(in the same envelope) from Italy for April 2018 (it's now March 2019) stating my husband drove in a restricted area. The violations are 6 minutes apart. My husband's first name is not spelt correctly on the notification. We had no idea we were in a restricted area. Seems ludicrous they are allowed a year before throwing this at us. We dont still hold records for the rental car as we had no idea anything was amiss.
Curlywurly - 18-Mar-19 @ 11:10 PM
Is this a pre brexit panic from the French to get fines in from over 6 months ago?
MotorMB - 18-Mar-19 @ 9:10 PM
On Friday 15 March I received a Violation Notice from France stating that my vehicle was checked at 86 kph where the authorised speed was 80 kph on 14 September 2018. I believe you are allowed slight leeway, so the speed used to fine me was actually 81 kph! I have paid the 45 euros fine immediately, but am now wondering if this was on one of the many roads where the speed limit signs were still showing 90 kph even though the law reduced these roads to 80 kph on 1st July 2018? Judging by what I am seeing on this website, a lot of British motorists have recently had the same experience from trips to France around that time. As I knew about this reduction and clearly was exceeding the limit, I accept that I am guilty but it does seem a bit of a coincidence that these fines should suddenly crop up 6 months after the event.I love France and French roads so this won't put me off driving over there again, I'll just be more careful, but I am a bit concerned that friends who live there tell me penalty points are now added to licences with speeding fines.
Gill - 18-Mar-19 @ 12:50 PM
Same here... Violation notice from france dated on 28.02.2019 for alleged speeding dated on 28.08.2018. Anyone found reliable info if it is enforceable after 6 months ths? Anyone?
Moly - 15-Mar-19 @ 7:47 PM
In the UK, a speeding fines need to be sent within 14 days of the offence. I have just received a speeding fine from France - 8 months after the offence. Is this enforceable? I am reluctant to pay it because of the 8 month delay.
CycleGuy - 15-Mar-19 @ 5:50 PM
We too have had a speeding ticket from September last year.They say we were doing 86 in a 80 zone. We were not aware speed limits on minor roads have been reduced to 80 km from 90 km evidently this happened on 1st July 2018. Do we get points on licence and do we have to inform insurance company in UK.
Dma - 15-Mar-19 @ 9:30 AM
I too have just had the same thing happen. Had a ticket through for an offence that was last September in france. Does anyone know if you get points on your uk license?
AL - 14-Mar-19 @ 7:34 PM
So it seems that I am in the same boat as many others here. Two fines, from cameras 1hr apart (must have been the same road!), both 86kph in an 80kph (a difference of 1 or 2mph!), also from 6months ago (Sept 18). Is it me, or does this look like they targeting foreign motorists. Surely more leeway should be given here. It is enough to put you off driving abroad and I certainly won't be visiting France again! I, too, would like to know if I can contest this.
Lozza - 14-Mar-19 @ 4:35 PM
We have just received a speeding notice through from France Violation notice date 28/2/19 Date of offence: 27/8/18 86kph in an 80 limit Looking at other forums, it seems the French have done some kind of bulk request to the DVLA! I'm trying to research if there are any time limits that apply to these fines, especially as we are due to drive back to France in 3 weeks' time.
SARAHG1969 - 14-Mar-19 @ 1:32 PM
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