Directive on cross-border exchange of information on road safety related traffic offences annulled on grounds of wrong legal basis

Today, the Court of Justice of the European Union based in Luxembourg annulled the 2011 directive on cross-border exchange of information on road safety related traffic offences, ruling that it is contrary to EU law because of the legal basis of the piece of legislation.

Measures to improve road safety fall within transport policy. The Court concludes from this that, both in respect of its aim and its content, the directive is a measure to improve transport safety and should therefore have been adopted on that basis; it is not directly linked to police cooperation.

The aim of this directive is to combat road traffic offences that considerably jeopardise road safety, by facilitating cross-border exchange of information. A member state in which an offence has been committed with a vehicle registered in another member state will be able to identify the holder of the vehicle and investigate who is personally liable for the offence, so that sanctions can be enforced. It would also guarantee equal treatment of drivers whatever their country of residence.

The directive sets up a procedure for the exchange of information between Member States in relation to eight road traffic offences: speeding, non-use of a seat-belt, failing to stop at a red traffic light, drink-driving, driving under the influence of drugs, failing to wear a crash helmet, use of a forbidden lane and illegally using a mobile telephone.

The Court nevertheless recognizes that annulment of the directive without maintaining its effects could have negative consequences for EU transport policy. The directive had already come into force and been transposed into member states law by the end of 2013. And whilst the Court annuls the directive on a legal basis it acknowledges the importance of its the road safety aims and allows for the effects to be maintained for a period of one year. This should allow for a new directive based on the correct legal basis, namely transport safety, to be adopted.

Bilateral agreements already exist between member states in the European Union to ensure cross-border exchange of information on road safety related traffic offences, but this directive aimed at achieving application EU-wide. The European Commission’s 2007 impact assessment estimated that 5000 lives could be saved every year thanks to these measures.

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