Can a driving conviction affect driving abroad?

Got a driving conviction? Unsure whether you can drive abroad? Many UK travellers have landed in hot water because they didn’t understand the rules of that country. In some cases it’s been a simple parking ticket; in others it’s been something more serious. And with thousands of UK motorists being pursued by other countries for driving-related offences, it’s safe to assume that you won’t get away with something, just because it didn’t occur in the UK.

If you’ve got a driving conviction, but you want to go on a road trip in Europe or drive abroad, it’s worth knowing the facts before you travel.

Driving offences can have a major effect on your life, both from a professional and personal point of view. Fortunately, there are options like convicted driver insurance that could help get you back on the road. But as with a lot of things in life, prevention is often better than cure. The more aware you are of the effects a driving offence could have, the more easily you can avoid committing one.

Especially in a foreign country where you may not be as familiar with driving rules and regulations. In order to clear some things up for you, we’ve put together a handy guide around whether driving convictions can impact driving abroad.


First things first - know the rules of the road

Committing a driving offence, particularly an unintentional one, is entirely preventable. As a driver, you have a duty of care to other people out on the road. Part of that duty of care is understanding what rules are in place to ensure a safe driving environment. Just because you know the rules in the UK doesn’t mean they’ll apply in the same way in other countries. And, it’s not just as simple as ‘driving on the right-hand side’. You’ll need to delve a little further than that into what is and isn’t allowed, what you have to have in your car and things you need to keep in mind when driving in a specific country.

Every nation has its own, very specific set of rules and regulations for ensuring safety on its roads. In other words, their way of doing things. And, these rules can vary greatly from country to country in their scope, application and specificity. Just think about how many different legal drinking limits there are in the EU (let alone around the world). In fact, most European countries have lower thresholds than the UK.

As a driver, you’re responsible for researching and knowing what the motor rules of a particular country are. Taking the time to do this beforehand can help you stay on the right side of the law and avoid hefty fines or penalties. Some of these rules are likely to sound highly unusual, so it’s important to read up on them. Here are just a few examples to take note of:


●     France - Did you know that when in France, if you drive 25km above the speed limit, you can have your licence confiscated?

●     Switzerland - There’s no ‘calling shotgun’ here for kids. If a child is under 13 years of age, they’re not allowed to sit at the front seat.

●     Austria - Not dimming your headlights here can be considered an offence.

●     Italy - They take their historic zone very seriously here. If you drive through a historic zone (ZTLs), even accidentally, you risk landing multiple fines.

●     Germany - If you overtake a school bus dropping off children, you could be prosecuted. Also, if you need to drive through a ‘low emission zone’ here, you may need a special permit.


Of course, there are many more rules in each of these countries and regions, so it’s important to brush up on the regulations of your destination before embarking on any trip.

And with Brexit on the way, it’s also important to review what you might need to do going forward when driving abroad in the EU.


How long do driving offences stay on your record?

Normally, motoring convictions will be spent after the five-year mark (from when you received the record). It’s crucial to note, however, that this doesn’t apply to all kinds of offences. Convictions for drink and drug driving, for instance, will remain on your driving licence and DVLA driving record for longer, up to 11 years.


What happens if you are convicted abroad?

You may have heard that expression ‘what happens in Rome stays in Rome’? Well, some things could, in fact, follow you back from there (and from other parts of Europe for that matter).

Let’s start with what happens in this country. If you commit an offence in the UK, the police will record that offence and your sentence in detail on the Police National Computer (or PNC).

If you commit an offence abroad, the answer is a little more nebulous and really depends on where exactly the offence has been committed.


Committing an offence in the EU

You see, the UK falls under the EU Council Framework Decisions 2099/315/JHA. Under this framework, if you commit an offence abroad and there is an ‘equivalent offence’ by definition that can be identified under English and Welsh law as a recordable offence, then the police in that country will pass it on to the Automating Conviction Requests Office (ACRO). ACRO, in turn, will process the conviction and add its details to the PNC system. If you’re from North Ireland or Scotland then you’ll be subject to a similar process. Here, information from abroad is transferred to the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) or the Scottish Police Services Authority (SPSA).

So, there you go. Committing an offence abroad isn’t just easily erased because you’re not a resident in that particular country. Furthermore, it can have repercussions for your life when you come back to the UK. But while this system is in place (and you should assume that any offence committed will be reported to the police here) sometimes information about an offence isn’t, for whatever reason, passed back to the UK. That being said, those offences that are ‘recordable’ as indicated in the National Police Records Regulation 2000 will be uploaded to the PNC. And, what is a ‘recordable’ offence exactly? The regulation stipulates it’s one that’s punishable with imprisonment.


So, then what about driving offences?

While many driving offences abroad used to go unpunished, in 2017 the rules changed. Before then, if you were caught, say, speeding in another EU country, the officer who caught you could issue an ‘on the spot’ fine and even escort you to a cash point to pay this. If you were caught on a speeding camera, a fine wasn’t enforceable. But, the European government got more serious about cracking down on driving offences committed across the continent and published a series of changes. Brought into effect in the UK on the 6 May 2017, the EU-implemented Cross Border Enforcement Directive had the aim of making it easy for traffic offenders to be located in any member state. At the time, the UK opposed these changes and tried to opt out but were overruled. And that means that if you are currently caught speeding or committing any other driving-related safety offences in the EU - using a mobile phone, drink-driving, running a red light, etc. - the DVLA must disclose your details to any EU country that requests them.

Of course, Brexit may lead to further changes and complications around the matter so it’s worth keeping an eye out for any updates.

Driving-related offences outside the EU

In countries that aren’t part of the EU, details of your conviction may still be sent back to the UK. It all depends on the country and their policies around the transfer and exchange of criminal records. And, even if the information isn’t passed on directly after the incident, it can still be requested by the UK government down the line.


Can you get points on your license in another country?

As explored in the last section, it’s very possible, indeed, for a driving offence (depending on its nature) to follow you back to the UK and to be recorded against your driving history.

When it comes to collecting points, however, the Department of Transport makes it clear that penalty points received abroad are not transferable to your UK driving licence. This doesn’t mean you'll be immune or exempt from fines. These will vary greatly from country to country and can be applied to everything from driving with an illegal sat-nav feature to driving without a seatbelt or talking on the mobile.


What happens if you don’t pay a fine abroad?

If you’ve committed a civil offence, such as garnering a parking fine or one for a restricted traffic zone, then you may be tempted to simply ignore paying the fine. Doing so, however, could create an even greater hassle for you.

Firstly, unlike the 14-day period in the UK, it could take up to a year to hear from a regional authority about your offence. It’s not uncommon for some UK drivers to hear about an offence they committed unawares on holiday over a year ago suddenly out of the blue.

If you’re landed with a ticket, usually you’ll have up to 60 days to appeal or pay. And, not paying could result in that local authority doubling the fine and getting a debt collection agency signed up to follow up on the debt. As we discussed previously, with any EU country having the right to ask the DVLA for your driving records. Even with Brexit, they could still access it if they hire a UK debt collection agency to pursue you.

So, it’s probably better to pay the fine (even if you’re compelled not to) than have to go through the hassle of debt collection agencies chasing you.


Get a quote for convicted driving insurance

Driving convictions can sometimes make it harder to find the right insurance.

Here at Insurance Factory, our specialist convicted driver insurance was specially designed with convicted drivers in mind.

So if you’re faced with high premiums and little understanding from other providers, know that we are here to help, without judgement.


Get a quote today.