What EU laws are going to affect UK driving in 2016

A host of new EU driving laws could be passed this year, which could affect drivers from the UK visiting the EU mainland.

The European Commission is in the process of finalising several new driving laws, in a bid to crack down on law-breaking foreign drivers, and improve road safety across the continent.

Traffic fines

At the moment, police across Europe have the power to issue on-the-spot fines to British drivers caught breaking the law by police at the roadside.

However, if drivers from the UK are caught, for example, by a speed camera while driving their own car, they can’t be fined, given points on their license or be pursued by the courts. The EU is seeking to change this, so that British drivers can be punished by the authorities for a range of motoring offences, including:

  • Driving while using a mobile phone

  • Speeding

  • Drink driving

  • Drug driving

  • Ignoring red lights

Police throughout Europe will be given powers to use registration plates to identify offending car owners and where they live. On tracing them, they’ll be able to send postal payment demands and threaten those who don’t pay with court action. British police will be able to use the same powers to target foreign drivers breaking laws on British roads too.

The new law regarding fines has already come into force in mainland Europe, but won’t apply to British roads until 2017, as the Commission has given the UK’s DVLA extra time to update its systems.

Harmonisation of penalty points

Under the new laws, it’s not only fines that can be dished out, but penalty points too. Under the current system, British drivers committing driving offences abroad aren’t allocated penalty points on their UK licence. The European Commission is now considering the ‘harmonisation’ of penalty points throughout the EU, so that any points picked up abroad will be added to your UK licence.

New French driving laws

26 new driving measures were introduced in France this year in response to a 3.7% rise in French road deaths last year. These include:

  • Motorcycle clothing - from January 2016, all motorcyclists (two or three wheels) are required to carry reflective jackets and wear them in the event of a breakdown or emergency

  • Drink driving - the limit for novice drivers, that’s those who have under three years driving experience, has been reduced to 0.02% - the same level that’s currently applied to coach and bus drivers

  • No more headphones - drivers are now banned from using headphones when driving, including any headset device that’s attached to the ear for use in making phone calls or listening to audio. Integrated systems and Bluetooth sets fitted inside motorcycle helmets are still allowed

Spanish driving licenses

New regulations have also come into force in Spain, forcing EU nationals who are legal residents in Spain to get a Spanish licence for the first time. Those who have been resident in Spain for longer than two years, and hold certain types of EU or EEC driving licenses will need to renew their EU driving licence, which kick-starts the process of acquiring a Spanish licence instead. If you’ve been resident in Spain since 19 February 2013 and hold a permanent, 15 year (for Group 1) or five year (for Group 2) licence then you’ll need to switch to a Spanish licence. This is to enable Spanish authorities to check the driving abilities and health conditions of foreign drivers to the same extent that they check Spanish nationals.

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