Effect of driving convictions abroad

Questions often arise about the effect of road traffic convictions abroad, especially since the Irish and United Kingdom governments agreed to apply the European Convention on Driving Disqualifications early. A good deal of explanatory information is available online, but none appears to answer a particular, common question:

Q: if you are Irish and are disqualified from driving in Ireland, will that disqualification apply in the UK?

A: No, but you will have surrendered your Irish licence and will then require a new foreign licence to drive abroad.

European Convention on Driving Disqualifications

Driving licences are already harmonised at European Union level, so there is some degree of uniformity across the EU in relation to the requirements to obtain one. This does not extend to harmonising disqualifications.

The Convention itself only partly harmonises driving disqualifications. It says that:

drivers disqualified from driving in a Member State other than that of their normal residence ought not to escape the effects of such measure when present in a Member State other than that of the offence

So, if an Irish driver is on holidays in the UK and, while there, is convicted of a serious driving offence and disqualified from driving in the UK, that disqualification will be notified to the Irish authorities who can apply it in Ireland. There are circumstances in which the Irish authorities can refuse to recognise the disqualification.

However, the Convention does not provide that an Irish driver who is disqualified from driving by an Irish court will also be disqualified from driving in the UK.

In short, foreign disqualifications follow you home, but home disqualifications don’t follow you abroad.

Many countries (including Ireland and the UK) allow for the exchange of a foreign driving licence in return for a domestic one but a current foreign licence is required. If disqualified from driving in Ireland, the Irish licence will be surrendered and therefore not available for exchange in the UK, for example. Therefore you would have to comply with the requirements of the foreign country for obtaining a new licence. Most countries, like the UK, impose a residency requirement for applicants.

Types of disqualifications covered

The main offences covered by the Convention are:

  • reckless or dangerous driving;
  • hit-and-run driving;
  • driving while disqualified;
  • drunken driving and drug driving (including refusal to give a sample); and
  • speeding.

Status of Convention

The Convention will not apply to all the Member States that have signed it until it is ratified by all of them. However, Ireland and the United Kingdom have applied its provisions early between themselves.

Irish Law

The Convention was implemented into Irish law by section 9 of the Road Traffic Act 2002 (note that the text linked to has been amended, see here for changes or here for a restatement of the full Act). However, it did not take effect between Ireland and the UK until 2010. The Convention does not apply to Wales or Scotland.

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