There needs to be a unified approach to all vehicles using EU urban roads, Source: Depositphotos

Cities call on the EU to enforce traffic rules on foreign vehicles

Cities call on the EU to enforce traffic rules on foreign vehicles

Despite freedom of movement, traffic regulations have still not been standardized

In a joint letter co-signed by 20 elected officials from European cities, local politicians call on the European Parliament to help cities enforce the equal application of mobility regulations to all drivers, including those from foreign countries.

The text by members of Eurocities and the Polis organisations refers, in particular, to the application of Urban Vehicle Access Regulations (UVARs), such as congestion charges and low-emission zones.

The letter is addressed to members of the European Parliament's Transport and Tourism Committee, who are currently discussing an update to the "Cross-Border Enforcement Directive", which is meant to help fine foreign drivers breaching local traffic rules.

Blind spots in traffic regulations

In its current formulation, the directive doesn't include the enforcement of UVARs offences. At the moment, loose enforcement procedures allow foreign drivers to easily avoid paying local traffic violation fines.

For example, Milan has set up limited traffic zones and enforces a congestion charge scheme; both apply to all drivers, regardless of their country of origin. However, in 2020, 75% of foreign drivers didn't pay their traffic fines which amounted to €6 million, according to the local press.

Similar situations can be observed elsewhere in Europe. In the German city of Aachen, in 2022, 69% of unpaid low-emission zone tickets came from foreign vehicles.

Many cities fear that beyond the gap in financial revenues stemming from uncollected fines, a lack of equal treatment between national and foreign drivers could challenge the acceptability of UVARs.

As local authorities increase efforts to improve air quality, road safety and reduce noise emissions, the letter's signatories remind EU Parliament members that "ensuring fair and equitable treatment in law enforcement is paramount to treat all European citizens the same way and to secure the support of our population".

Why is it important at this moment?

Tackling this issue is paramount at a time when the EU is asking cities to intensify actions against air pollution to meet EU air quality targets through the creation of new low-emission zones. The EU is also urging municipalities to step up road safety measures to reach zero road fatalities by 2050.

To resolve this unfortunate situation, signatories urge members of the European Parliament to include UVARs in the scope of the directive.

If amended, the directive will allow member states and their cities to collect technical vehicle information from vehicles entering an UVAR, offering a legal basis to process them in full compliance with the relevant data protection rules," the letter says.

The Parliament vote, scheduled for 29 November 2023, will be crucial for deciding the fate of the Cross-Border Enforcement Directive.

Including UVARs in the scope of the directive would allow moving beyond the current situation. At the moment, the enforcement of traffic fines is only possible between countries that have signed a bilateral agreement allowing the mutual transfer of vehicle registration information.

Finally, the letter reminds that new technological solutions allow to apply UVARs to foreign vehicles and have been tested in cities such as Barcelona.

In March 2023, the European Commission suggested revising the existing Cross-Border Enforcement Directive to improve road safety, introduce new driving license rules and compel the application of traffic laws across national borders.



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