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Germans Hit Harder Than Brits by Euro Penalty Culture

515,874 speeding tickets come from Switzerland, Holland,  Austria, Belgium and Italy alone. Germany rarely fines  foreigner motorists.

Around 5 million German cars are taken by their owners on European holidays each year. For some countries, this means 5 million chances to fine Germans for driving offences in Austria, Switzerland, Italy and co. There are many reasons for the fines - sometimes tourists can't read the Italian-language sign for "Quiet Street", hidden in a parking area next to the Leaning Tower of Pisa, which means 194,50€ if you are not prepared to pay without appealing. There are no official figures for how much money other European countries charge German tourists. 

A current study from the online travel-agency  ab-in-den-urlaub.de undertook its own research, right on time during the summer vacation.

According to the website, 7 percent of German travellers who rent a car abroad receive are fined for traffic offences. In total, around 15 million Germans drive 5 million cars to other countries during their holidays. If rental cars are included, the figure increases drastically. For example, in 2009, around 20 000 Europcar customers received fines while abroad. 8000 of these were from Holland, and 6000 from Austria. Europcar owns over 170 000 cars, 133 000 of which are in other European countries.

In total, ab-in-den-urlaub.de has calculated that 515 874 parking tickets with a value of 53.6 million Euros were sent to German drivers during 2009 alone. That means in the last 10 years, European countries have cashed in 520 million Euros from German drivers abroad.

The 515,784 parking violations were based on different offences. The German transport authorities in Flensburg told ab-in-den-urlaub.de that in 2009 alone, German drivers were ordered to stop by police while driving abroad a total of 716,333 times. This number can be divided between 5 countries, whereby Switzerland accounted for 354,150 and as such ranks number one in the list, despite being geographically small. In Switzerland alone, around half of the European total is collected, around 25.5 million Euros. It is allegedly true, that Swiss police have accompanied German drivers to the next bank to demand the money on the spot.

The second highest European earner is the equally small Netherlands. Around 192,503 fines were sent to Germans in 2009 with a total value of 19.2 million Euros. In total, 87% of the money paid by Germans who have comitted driving offences goes to these two countries. Following these two countries is Austria with 41,767 fines (4.1m €), Belgium with 15,815 (1.6m €) and Italy with 10,685 (1.07m €). All estimates are conservative, based on an average of 100 € per fine. For Spain, France and other countries, the values were so low that they were not statistically included.

However, Germany itself generally sends less fines to drivers from other countries. That means a driver from Italy or Holland can park incorrectly or drive too fast in Germany and generally does not have to pay any money in the form of a traffic fine. Particularly the Italian authorities are not renowned for actually passing on such requests to the drivers. The process is made more difficult, as in some countries police and authority corruption is more a daily reality than the exception. Many punishments directed at foreigners are rejected for the most trivial reasons. In connection, some people suspect police officers of imposing dubious "underhand" fines collected directly in cash.

Transport lawyer Alexander Koden says, "It is particularly difficult to prove whether the foreign traffic offence is really justified or not." Not least as it can sometimes take over a year before the payment demand arrives. Yet, not only that: The Italians accept only appeals which are written in Italian (see attachment). The EU is growing ever closer together - at least in the dreams of many politicians. 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.

Until now, the EU countries were able to cash in the fine money without the involvement of German courts. That, however, is to change. From Autumn 2010, the German authorities have to be involved in the process. Ralph Michaelsen from ab-in-den-urlaub.de predicts with over 500 000 fines sent to Germans each year, "the German authorities will have significantly more to do" from Autumn 2010 onwards.

Once more, the EU has shown its neither-here-nor-there mentality. Traffic signs in Sweden, Greece and Italy may, as before, only be produced in the local language. As the unity of the signage is not provided, many tourists are likely to fall into the traffic fines trap simply as a result of misunderstandings. However, "I recommend the impacted drivers to closely inspect the fines, defend themselves or in clear cases to pay" says lawyer Kaden. He who doesn't pay has much more to lose from Autumn 2010 - for instance problems and fines from even higher authorities.

 

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