Motoring fines abroad: what to do if you get a ticket on holiday

Motoring fines abroad

Great car, beautiful scenery, precious memories: driving abroad can be idyllic – unless you break the law (Picture © Skoda)

Motoring fines abroad are one way of ensuring the holiday hangover continues long after the sun tan has faded. Whether you get nabbed by a speed camera or handed a ticket for (possibly inadvertently) parking somewhere you shouldn’t, it can be an expensive business. So what are the rules? And where do you stand if a fine from abroad drops on the door mat? Our simple guide explains all. 

Motoring fines abroad: Are you safe when you’re back in the UK?

You may think that simply tearing up that ticket when you get back to the UK is the only way to deal with a foreign fine. It’s not. There have been cases of UK drivers ignoring fines. Then when they return to the country in question they’ve been stopped at customs and hit with a greater penalty than the original one. If you do get flashed by a camera or ticketed for parking, don’t be surprised if a penalty finds its way to you. Although Britain’s DVLA isn’t obliged to supply foreign police forces with information on UK citizens, authorities abroad can easily get round this by employing UK-based companies. These can source information from the DVLA perfectly legally.

Motoring fines abroad: How long have you got?

The time lapse between committing the ‘crime’ and getting your punishment varies from country to country. In Italy, the authorities have up to 360 days after they’ve obtained a driver’s details to make contact. In Germany, the limit is three months. Once drivers get a ticket, they usually have 60 days to pay or appeal. Ignore it and the fine can be doubled. And the authority levying it will probably try to recoup the money using a debt collection agency local to you.

Motoring fines abroad: What are your rights?

It’s well worth knowing where you stand if you get a fine from driving abroad. First, parking fines aren’t issued for criminal offences, they’re for civil offences so there will just be a fine. If you are charged with a criminal offence, which motoring offences are classed as, you have the right to be informed promptly of the accusation against you in a language you understand. Anyone accused should also have adequate time and facilities to prepare their defence. However, if you do appeal against a fine, and it’s dismissed, the fine could double.

Motoring fines abroad: What happens if it’s in a hire car?

Car rental companies are nearly always obliged to pass on the details of whoever was renting the car to the authority asking for it. Sometimes, they’ll even charge you an administration fee for doing so. They may then use your credit card details to take this from you. On top of that, you’re still likely to get a fine for the original offence.

Motoring fines abroad: What to do?

If you’ve committed the crime, be prepared to do the time. Not literally, of course but it’s sensible to pay motoring fines abroad promptly (assuming you don’t have grounds and evidence to believe it’s been wrongly issued). One of the downsides of ever improving communications is that there’s nowhere to hide from transgressions you may have committed hundreds or even thousands of miles from home.

Motoring fines abroad: What about the future?

Although the DVLA can’t currently pass on the details of UK motorists, that could change. There is likely to be an EU Directive within the next few years that will give authorities the ability to access driving records from all over the EU.

Driving abroad: know the rules

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