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Common Driving Offences Abroad

By: Garry Crystal - Updated: 31 Oct 2017 | 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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[Add a Comment]
Poolegirl - Your Question:
I was stopped by the police in France on 7th October 2016 on a motorbike after crossing a STOP sign without actually stopping. I had slowed right down but at the junction there is a half mile of visibility! I understood with their limited english that I was getting a warning. It was a rookie cop with his mentor. Although all our documents were correctly presented at the time, we have now received a fine of almost 300 euros.after more than a year! Is this legal? Also all the documents are in French so difficult to understand. Isn't there some staute of limitations? Can you offer any advice please?

Our Response:
There is no time limit that we are aware of as this might be impractical given the cross nation communication involved.
NoPenaltyPoints - 1-Nov-17 @ 3:42 PM
I was stopped by the police in France on 7th October 2016 on a motorbike after crossing a STOP sign without actually stopping. I had slowed right down but at the junction there is a half mile of visibility! I understood with their limited english that I was getting a warning. It was a rookie cop with his mentor. Although all our documents were correctly presented at the time, we have now received a fine of almost 300 euros.after more than a year! Is this legal? Also all the documents are in French so difficult to understand. Isn't there some staute of limitations? Can you offer any advice please?
Poolegirl - 31-Oct-17 @ 5:32 PM
CKC - Your Question:
Hi.I received a letter last month to my UK address regarding a speeding offence committed on the 9th December 2015, in Geneva!! I am going to write to them to ask why it has taken so long for them to send me the driving offence and to ask for photo evidence as it was so long ago. I believe in the UK a speeding fine letter is normally received within 14 days? I was driving 77km in a 50 zone. Eek. Do anyone have any advice? I travel to Geneva regularly by plane but can avoid driving there in the near future.

Our Response:
The time limit doesn't apply in Swizterland. This has happened to quite a few UK drivers and the recommendation seems to be to pay the fine as they will pursue it. We can't find any concrete information to back this up though.
NoPenaltyPoints - 25-Oct-17 @ 12:12 PM
Hi. I received a letter last month to my UK address regarding a speeding offence committed on the 9th December 2015, in Geneva!! I am going to write to them to ask why it has taken so long for them to send me the driving offence and to ask for photo evidence as it was so long ago. I believe in the UK a speeding fine letter is normally received within 14 days? I was driving 77km in a 50 zone. Eek. Do anyone have any advice? I travel to Geneva regularly by plane but can avoid driving there in the near future.
CKC - 24-Oct-17 @ 5:24 PM
Particio - Your Question:
I’ve received a fine from Italy for speeding, which also says that the violation involves the curtailment of 3 points.I hired a car in Italy and live in UK.Are those 3 points going to be on my UK driving license or just paying the fine will sort the problem out?Do I need to contact The italian police or DVLA to figure out or just leave it like that?Thank you

Our Response:
There is currently no inter country mechanism for imposing penalty points in the EU. They may pursue the fine however.
NoPenaltyPoints - 23-Oct-17 @ 3:21 PM
I’ve received a fine from Italy for speeding, which also says that the violation involves the curtailment of 3 points. I hired a car in Italy and live in UK. Are those 3 points going to be on my UK driving license or just paying the fine will sort the problem out? Do I need to contact The italian police or DVLA to figure out or just leave it like that? Thank you
Particio - 20-Oct-17 @ 10:25 AM
Pennyfarthing - Your Question:
I received a speeding ticket from Germany for 20 euros, 2 months after the offence. In the UK, speed camera offences an NIP must be sent to the owner within 10 working days. Is this not the case for Germany? I think it should be like for like if they want to fine us without us fining any other country!!

Our Response:
In the UK, it is 14 days, this doesn't apply if you are caught speeding in another country.
NoPenaltyPoints - 13-Oct-17 @ 12:33 PM
I received a speeding ticket from Germany for 20 euros, 2 months after the offence. In the UK, speed camera offences an NIP must be sent to the owner within 10 working days. Is this not the case for Germany? I think it should be like for like if they want to fine us without us fining any other country!!
Pennyfarthing - 12-Oct-17 @ 11:45 AM
I received notification from a car hire company that the car I hired was caught committing a traffic offence while driving in Germany. It doesn’t tell me what the offence was but my best guess is that I missed red light. If I missed it by more than a second I believe the offence carries a one month driving ban. Is this applicable to a UK driving license? If so wil I Have to send my license to Germany and will the ban apply in the uk?
Jane - 11-Oct-17 @ 9:09 PM
I am resident in Spain and own a car here. Spanish insurance covers the car, not the driver, so anyone can drive my car (under the age of 25) with my permission on an occasional basis. While my brother was over from the UK, he drove my car and jumped a red light. As the owner of the car, I have been sent a fine and a 4-point endorsement, as it assumes I was the driver. On the order, I have the option of saying who the driver was (I need to attach copies of his licence, etc.). I can pay the fine, but I am nor prepared to take the hit on the points. Question: am I right in thinking that the endorsement is not enforceable in the UK? As I see it, in these cases, they are more interested in getting the money.
timcarn - 22-Aug-17 @ 9:02 AM
If say I'd been given a 15day driving ban by Italian police does this count in the uk say I was driving a HGV during a hgv ban on the motorway received heavy fine (which I paid) do I have to declare this ban to theDVLA/ insurance company
Woody - 21-Jul-17 @ 10:13 PM
Kev. - Your Question:
Hi, I've just received a letter from Italy with a 60euro fine for speeding, ten months ago! (60Kph in a 50zone).The amount seems very low and I'm willing to pay it. There's nothing in the letter recieved about points. Will these follow from DVLA or have I got away with just the fine?

Our Response:
You can't have points added to your licence by another country unless there is a reciprocal arrangement between them and the UK (there isn't with Italy).
NoPenaltyPoints - 20-Jun-17 @ 1:00 PM
Hi, I've just received a letter from Italy with a 60euro fine for speeding, ten months ago! (60Kph in a 50zone).The amount seems very low and I'm willing to pay it. There's nothing in the letter recieved about points. Will these follow from DVLA or have I got away withjust the fine?
Kev. - 18-Jun-17 @ 5:18 PM
Mickeyboy - Your Question:
Hi,Quick question that I hope someone can help me with - I'm English and hold a uk license. I was stopped by police in Latvia but they spoke no English - for this reason, I refused to do an alcohol test. I was later informed that as I'd not completed the test, Latvian police would seek the highest punishment for the offence (€2000 fine, 15 days administrative arrest and a FOUR YEAR BAN !)I'm not overly bothered about not being able to drive in Latvia. Can anyone tell me if the driving ban would only apply in Latvia, or also in UK and other EU countries ?Thanks.

Our Response:
It's unlikely that this could be imposed on your UK licence but you should seek advice from a professional legal expert really.
NoPenaltyPoints - 13-Jun-17 @ 11:37 AM
Hi, Quick question that I hope someone can help me with - I'm English and hold a uk license. I was stopped by police in Latvia but they spoke no English - for this reason, I refused to do an alcohol test. I was later informed that as I'd not completed the test, Latvian police would seek the highest punishment for the offence (€2000 fine, 15 days administrative arrest and a FOUR YEAR BAN !) I'm not overly bothered about not being able to drive in Latvia. Can anyone tell me if the driving ban would only apply in Latvia, or also in UK and other EU countries ? Thanks.
Mickeyboy - 10-Jun-17 @ 11:29 AM
I have a very similar query to Steve but my fine was in Spain. I have just had three letter through yesterday but I can't decipher them as they are in Spanish. What would happen if i just ignore these?
Rob - 18-Jan-17 @ 12:02 PM
Hello there I am a UK citizen, and I have unfortunately received a speeding fine from France. It was collected in a French registered Hire Car, so the Hire Car company have clearly provided the French Government with my details. My question is this: What powers of enforcement do the French authorities have if I chose to ignore it? I am aware that the cross-border sharing of information directive will come into force in 2017. but this isn't relevant in this particular circumstance. They already have my details and a fine has arrived in the post. Therefore, if it was ignored, can the French Government use some sort of mechanism for either civil or even perhaps criminal recovery of any unpaid fines? If they do, can you please outline what these are? Many thanks
Steve - 18-Nov-16 @ 5:22 PM
lakeside - Your Question:
A friend who lives in America came to england to visit and was driving my car I later received a fixed penalty point notice that he jumped red light and I should identify the driver. My question is can I fill his america address and other details in the form and send it back to the police ? He admitted he committed the offence

Our Response:
Yes you need to say that you are the registered keeper but also give the details of the person who was driving (hopefully your friend was insured?)
NoPenaltyPoints - 17-Nov-16 @ 12:05 PM
A friend who lives in America came to england to visit and was driving my car i later received a fixed penalty point notice that he jumped red light and i should identify the driver . My question is can i fill his america address and other details in the form and send it back to the police ? He admitted he committed the offence
lakeside - 16-Nov-16 @ 12:59 PM
I was driving my father in laws car while visiting Ireland from the uk and he received a fine. If I accept responsibility for this offence can I be given points on my licence back in the uk?
Andy - 17-Aug-16 @ 8:52 PM
Has any of you got a speeding ticket with a UK car in Italy? How does it work in that case?
Broddoi - 7-Jul-16 @ 4:09 PM
Hi I was caught speeding in France last year and had to pay €135 on the spot and also the took my photo card license from me, which they said I would have back in 6 months. I have just received a letter from France (looks like a court fine, but all in French so hard to understand) stating they have raised the fine and now want another €146. My question is can they enforce the payment? Thank for your time.
B1B - 30-Mar-16 @ 10:50 AM
bobthejetsetter - Your Question:
I received 2 letters from australia in december 2015, informing me of 2 infringements 1 for traffic light offence the other for speeding whilst using a rental car.My question is can the fines and demerit points be enforced in the uk ?I'm not concerned about the speeding offence as I left australia 6 weeks before it actually happened!!!!

Our Response:
These points will not be placed on your UK licence. The fine might be pursued though.
NoPenaltyPoints - 1-Mar-16 @ 2:27 PM
I received 2 letters from australia in december 2015, informing me of 2 infringements 1 for traffic light offence the other for speeding whilst using a rental car. My question is can the fines and demerit points be enforced in the uk ? I'm not concerned about the speeding offence as i left australia 6 weeks before it actually happened!!!!
bobthejetsetter - 29-Feb-16 @ 9:50 AM
I know the EU enforce each others fines, is it at all likely that one from Australia will be enforced on me in the UK?
tom - 11-Jun-12 @ 2:47 AM
Caught by speed camera in Switzerland in a hire car. I have had 3 letters from the Swiss Police asking for money I assume.......as they are all written in Swiss/German language ...I dont understand any of the content so cannot do anything about it..........so sweet....haha
Hot Stuff - 22-Apr-12 @ 9:45 AM
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