European Highway Code and Vehicle Register - Response by the Alliance Internationale de Tourisme (AIT) and the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA) to the EESC Hearing of 17/05/2004
Publication date: 17 May 2004
The AIT and the FIA are pleased to have this opportunity to take part in the hearing and give our comments on the report of the EESC. The AIT and the FIA are global federations of Touring and Automobile Clubs. Worldwide we represent some 100 million members, whilst in the EU our member Clubs have a combined membership of 42 million. We are truly the voice of the ordinary motorist. The AIT and the FIA work to represent our members in areas such as: road safety, road pricing, taxation, consumer protection and testing, and the environment. Our policies and positions are based on a simple fact founded in reality. The car and use of a car is vital in contemporary Europe, indeed over 80% of all journeys are made using the car. Thus, it is the view of the AIT and the FIA that the car and car users should be placed at the heart of policy. As will be noted, a number of our member Clubs will be in attendance at the hearing to detail their specific views, however our position reflects the views of all of our members.
The AIT and the FIA believe that the EESC initiative to harmonise traffic rules comes at an interesting and crucial time. Whilst, it is our view that a lack of harmonised rules is no real impediment to the movement of our members or tourists we think that it is correct that some form of harmonisation takes place. In particular, efforts should be made to harmonise the rules regarding what equipment motorists should have to carry in their cars. For instance, the number of warning triangles and safety jackets. This simple measure would avoid much confusion and costs for our members. However, we do not believe that is it possible to develop an overall European traffic law system. Member States would not agree to this and often laws are developed for national, and even local, circumstances. Yet steps should be taken to simplify rules in a number of basic, common areas. Thus, a step by step approach is needed in terms of the development of regulations and Directives combined with programmes to educate drivers as to the laws in the Member States.
As previously mentioned, the AIT and the FIA believe that the lack of harmonised rules does not act as a serious impediment to the movement of our members. However, this is not to say that problems do not occur which could be solved by a basic harmonisation. All of our member Clubs have examples of their members being arrested for traffic offences due to a lack of knowledge of local laws. A simple pan-European code would stop this from happening. Indeed, with the mutual recognition of financial penalties legislation moving forward, it is the view of the AIT and the FIA the some European code is needed to avoid foreigners being unfairly punished. In reality, a code should have been developed before the mutual recognition of penalties. This is not to say that the AIT and the FIA encourage law breaking, rather we just want to ensure our members have access to all the facts.
Overall then, the AIT and the FIA are in favour of some basic level of harmonisation. It can only be good for the mobility and rights of Europe’s motorists. However, we believe that complete harmonisation is neither possible nor desirable. Therefore, a step by step approach is needed and motorists need to be better informed.
Turning to the idea of a vehicle register. The AIT and the FIA believe that there is no need to develop and pay for a pan-European system. Procedures already exist between national vehicle registration authorities for the exchange of information. These procedures simply need to be made more comprehensive and efficient. This would achieve the same effect at the fraction of the cost.
In conclusion, the AIT and the FIA welcome the initiative of the EESC and look forward to taking part in the hearing. The issue of a harmonised vehicle code is one that needs to be investigated to further improve the rights and mobility of Europe’s citizens. In our view such a harmonisation, if done correctly and in specific areas, can only be beneficial. Yet, at the same time we do not really see the need for a pan-European vehicle register.