Thursday, 29 July 2010

Driving in Europe

Pride of Dover a couple of weeks ago
I am careful of French police. I used the BMW Z8’s splendidly straightforward cruise control on the recent Le Mans Classic trip. Went Dover-Calais by P&O and although this time I never saw any, I’ve been caught too often, along with other British tourists, by Autoroute radar traps. They must make millions of Euros in tolls and fines. I wish somebody would do a survey of how much, like the one undertaken by the German online travel-agency .

This showed that Germans drivers suffered 515 874 speeding tickets from Switzerland, Holland, Austria, Belgium and Italy alone, while Germany rarely fines foreign motorists. Around 5 million German cars are taken on European holidays each year. There are many reasons for the fines – sometimes tourists can't read the Italian-language sign for “Quiet Street”, hidden in the parking area next to the Leaning Tower of Pisa. This means €194.50 if you are not prepared to pay without appealing.

The agency has calculated that 515,874 parking tickets with a value of €53.6 million were sent to German drivers during 2009 alone. That means in 10 years, European countries have cashed in €520 million from German drivers abroad.

Around half the total €25.5 million is collected in Switzerland. Swiss police accompany drivers to the next bank to demand money on the spot. Second highest earner is the Netherlands. In 2009 192,503 fines were sent to Germans with a total value of €19.2 million.

Transport lawyer Alexander Koden told the agency, “It is particularly difficult to prove whether a foreign traffic offence is really justified.” It can take over a year before a payment demand arrives. Not only that: The Italians accept only appeals which are written in Italian. English, German and French are accepted as official languages within the EU, however that still does not mean that one is allowed to write to an Italian police department in English or German.

Once more, says the agency, “The EU has shown its neither-here-nor-there mentality. Traffic signs in Sweden, Greece and Italy may only be produced in the local language. As unity of the signage is not provided, many tourists fall into the traffic fines trap simply as a result of misunderstandings.”
Joanna was driving the BMW at 115mph; OK in Germany, not elsewhere

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