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Foreign drivers in EU to face bigger speed fines

Written by: Staff

BRUSSELS, Feb 22 (Reuters) Foreign drivers caught speeding in another European Union country will face tougher penalties, the European Commission said today.

People driving while abroad account for an average of 35 percent of the speeding tickets issued in 2004, according to a report on road safety across the EU by the bloc's executive.

''The Commissioner will urge transport ministers to address this issue and come up with stricter and better legislation to combat this problem,'' a spokeswoman for EU Transport Commissioner Jacques Barrot said.

''As it stands there is no real legislation in this area and many drivers when they are abroad drive in the belief that they will not face prosecution.'' The Commission believes speeding fines should be bigger and laws are too vague when it comes to drivers on foreign roads, with member states not following through enough when it comes to the collection of fines or the prosecution of offenders.

The Commission will deliver its mid-term review on road safety to EU transport ministers during a meeting in March before publishing its proposals in April on increasing road safety by the end of the decade.

Today's report says the EU is unlikely to achieve its 2001 goal of reducing road deaths to 25,000 by 2010 -- halving the current average. It says the figure will reach 32,500.

''As it stands, we are looking at 115 deaths a day which is unacceptable and we must do everything we can to reduce this number,'' Barrot told reporters.

However, there was some good news with a 14 per cent drop in the average number of fatalities in the past five years.

New cars on old roads mean the newest countries of the European Union now have the highest number of road deaths in the 25-member bloc, the report said.

LATVIA WORST Latvia, with 44,451 deaths in 2004, leads the table for deaths per head of population, followed by Lithuania with an increase of seven percent.

The Czech Republic increased by four percent with a five per cent jump in Hungary and three percent in Poland. Cyprus saw a 19 per cent jump in fatalities from 2001 to 2004.

''The development of motorways and better roads will help address this in the coming years,'' Barrot said.

Motorways account for only 5 percent of all road accidents and 9 per cent of fatalities.

Apart from better roads, the Commission is to propose further legislation in the areas of new safety technology, speed, safety belts and alcohol.

Tomorrow sees the launch of a Commission-led initiative on intelligent cars which it hopes will dramatically cut road deaths in the coming years.

According to Commission figures, technology could prevent 4,000 rear-end collisions per year if just three percent of cars had it installed, while technology to detect oncoming cars and so make overtaking safer could lead to a reduction of 1,500 per year if fitted in just 0.6 per cent of vehicles.

Britain, Netherlands and Sweden are best when it comes to road safety, while France has improved the most -- reducing the number of accidents by 32 per cent from 2001-2004.

The report also highlights the 15 per cent hike in deaths from motorcycling with Italy seeing an increase of 40 per cent.

People aged between 18 and 25, representing 10 per cent of the population, accounted for 21 per cent of fatalities in 2003, four fifths of them being male victims.

Reuters SHR GC2028

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