Riding on the continent is usually a very enjoyable way of spending your summer, but if your souvenirs include a speeding ticket can you safely ignore the penalty, and what happens if you can’t?
The short answer is no. Local law applies to you, wherever you are. Whether you are adventure bike riding in Morocco, or boulevard cruising in Paris you are in someone else’s country, their rules apply.
As a general proposition, foreign fines should not worry you overly, unless they are incurred within the European Union countries. In the EU some of the local police forces have the right to impound your bike on the spot. For example in most European jurisdictions if you have a foreign registered bike, unless you can produce proof of ownership (i.e. a V5) the police can seize your bike and hold it until you prove you are the lawful owner.
This is not a real risk, in reality, because most foreign police officers do not want to be dealing with a monoglot Briton and holding his or her bike in their cramped police garage. However you can be fined including on the spot speeding fines that can run into thousands of Euros.
A few years ago you could fairly safely ignore foreign fines. Unless the police seized your bike, they had very little recourse. They were enforceable, but they were so difficult to enforce that few countries bothered. However, the process is now
simplified. The authority simply writes to the UK DVLA who then enforce the foreign fine as though it was one of our own British fines, usually through Magistrates’ Enforcement Agents who are remarkably persistent if they think you are good for the money. Therefore if you do get a fine from a foreign force, pay it. Do keep proof that you have paid the fine. However, there is one glimmer of hope: if you had a local licence you would have points but there is no method of putting points from a foreign offence onto a British licence.
If going abroad it is worth familiarising yourself with the cultures of foreign forces. In my experience, for example, the Swedish police are absolutely rigorous on small but obvious defects on foreign bikes. Sweden is a country where you need to have your GB emblem on your bike, and funnily enough getting a GB sticker in Uppsala is not easy. Dark visors are illegal everywhere in the EU, but it has never bothered me. If it is sunny, I ride with a dark visor but always carry a clear visor. It is worth checking with the embassy website of any country you propose to go to check local rules.
A google search taking you to the official driving advice site is a good way of avoiding potential pitfalls. For example in Spain, if you wear contact lenses you are obliged to carry spectacles. So the rules are simple enough. Make sure you can produce all your documents, have a GB sticker, ride with courtesy (even if briskly) and if you incur the wrath of the local police, know you can be fined and fines can be enforced.
Bike Magazine September 2017