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Traffic Offenses Abroad: Be aware of the potential consequences and penalties

As the long holidays and vacation periods approach, many people will be traveling either by their own car or by renting one for their vacations. However, it is important to follow the traffic rules and regulations of the destination country. Failure to do so can result in significant fines, and in certain cases, even imprisonment is a possibility. Therefore, it is crucial to be aware of and comply with the traffic laws in the country you are visiting to avoid legal consequences.

Driving under the influence of alcohol, exceeding speed limits, or using a phone while driving can result in high costs for traffic violations. It is highly importance to adhere to traffic regulations to avoid these expenses. The ADAC provides an overview of the main fines in European countries.

Scandinavian countries tend to have the highest fines

In Scandinavian countries such as Norway, Sweden, and Finland, as well as in the Netherlands, Switzerland, and Italy, traffic offenders face significant financial consequences. For example, if caught speeding 20 km/h or more above the limit, the minimum fines are 585 euros in Norway, 215 euros in Sweden, 200 euros in Finland, 195 euros in the Netherlands, 180 euros in Switzerland, and 175 euros in Italy. These fines are considerably higher than the fines imposed in Germany for the same speeding violation, which start at 60 euros. Therefore, it is crucial to adhere to speed limits and avoid speeding in these countries to avoid hefty penalties.

Parking offenses in Croatia can have serious consequences

In Croata, violations such as not purchasing a paid parking ticket, exceeding the allowed parking time, or failing to display a parking disc can result in fines ranging from 10 to 40 euros. The payment request is often left on the windshield, but not always. If possible, it is advisable to pay the fine on the spot and obtain a receipt with detailed information such as the license plate number, date, location, amount, and reason for the fine. Keeping this receipt for at least five years is recommended. Taking a photo of the parking situation can also serve as evidence. If a letter from a lawyer or court in Croatia arrives after the vacation, it is crucial to seek legal advice promptly, as Croatian lawyers often charge several hundred euros for their services in such cases.

Parking violations are heavily penalized in the Netherlands (starting from 100 euros) and Poland (starting from 110 euros). In popular destinations during Easter, such as Austria (starting from 20 euros), Switzerland (starting from 40 euros), or Italy (starting from 45 euros), parking offenses are not as costly. In France, the minimum fine for parking incorrectly is 15 euros, while in Germany, it starts at 10 euros. It is important to be aware of and comply with parking regulations in each country to avoid these fines.

Restricted traffic zones in Italy

In many Italian cities and municipalities, you will find numerous restricted traffic zones known as "Zona a traffico limitato" (ZTL). These zones, often overlooked by tourists, are areas that only residents, buses, or taxis are permitted to enter. Video cameras are commonly used to monitor access to them and violations of entering or driving within a ZTL can result in fines starting from at least 84 euros. In addition to the fine, there are procedural fees that can quickly increase the total amount to 100 or 120 euros. If the fine is not paid within 60 days, the amount doubles. It is advisable to file an objection against the fine, particularly if it can be proven that a hotel stay within the ZTL occurred at the time of the offense. Providing evidence of the hotel stay can support the objection and potentially lead to a successful resolution of the fine.

Penalties for incorrectly affixed vignettes in Austria

The requirement for a vignette (road toll sticker) in Austria is generally well-known. However, it's important to note that incorrect placement of the vignette is penalized in the same way as not having the vignette at all. This results in a penalty known as a "substitute toll." For passenger cars, the penalty amount is 120 euros. The vignette should be affixed to the top left or middle top of the windshield, behind the rearview mirror. It's important to avoid placing the vignette behind a tinted strip, as it may not be recognized properly. If a previously affixed vignette is removed and reused on another vehicle, a penalty of 240 euros applies.

In recent times, it has become possible to obtain the vignette digitally as well. This can be done, for example, at ADAC branches or directly at designated highway rest stops. The digital vignette is linked to the license plate of the vehicle.

Impaired driving can lead to imprisonment in some countries

Driving under the influence of alcohol is heavily punished in many countries. In Italy, if the driver and owner of the vehicle are the same person and their blood alcohol level exceeds 1.5 permille, the vehicle can be confiscated. Similarly, in Denmark, confiscation can occur with a blood alcohol level of 2.0 permille. In Sweden, a blood alcohol level of 1.0 permille can lead to a one-month prison sentence, while in Spain, it is three months for a blood alcohol level of 1.2 permille.

Using a mobile phone without a hands-free device while driving also incurs fines in various countries. In Norway, the fine is 850 euros, in the Netherlands, it's 380 euros, in Spain, it's at least 200 euros, and in Italy, it's 165 euros. In Germany, the minimum fine for using a mobile phone while driving is 100 euros.

Fines from other European Union (EU) countries can be enforced in Germany starting from 70 euros, and in Austria, enforcement can occur from as low as 25 euros. It's important to note that traffic violations committed abroad do not result in a loss of points in the German driving record system (Flensburg). Additionally, a driving ban imposed abroad is not applicable in Germany. However, the EU has plans to change this in the coming years, aiming for better cross-border enforcement of traffic violations.

This article is from the 2/2023 issue of the magazine "Life Abroad".

The magazine is published four times a year free of charge with many informative articles on foreign topics.

It is published by the BDAE, the expert for protection abroad.