Tough Danish law sees cars seized from speeders on the spot – then sold

Measures were introduced with cross-party support following a spate of fatal crashes

Danish police man a checkpoint. While FDM, the Danish equivalent of the AA, supports a crackdown on reckless driving, it  takes issue with the seizure of cars not owned by the offending motorist. Photograph: Sean Gallup/Getty Images

Danish police man a checkpoint. While FDM, the Danish equivalent of the AA, supports a crackdown on reckless driving, it takes issue with the seizure of cars not owned by the offending motorist. Photograph: Sean Gallup/Getty Images

 

Speeding motorists in Denmark risk having their car seized on the spot and later sold at police auction.

Tough new laws introduced to combat reckless driving mean that anyone caught doing over double the legal limit will have their car seized immediately. The same rules apply for drink or drug driving amongst other serious motoring offences.

If the charges are upheld in court the driver will face prison time but the car will never be returned, even if the driver wasn’t the actual owner.

This last point is causing controversy, for it is common practice in Denmark for people to share their vehicles with other family members and even neighbours. The law also has implications for company fleets, rental car firms and car-sharing schemes.

According to Dennis Lange, senior consultant with FDM, the Danish equivalent of the AA, while there is widespread support for the tough new laws, there are concerns over the impact on owners who lose their car because someone else was driving recklessly.

Political support

Mr Lange says the new rules were introduced with cross-party political support following a spate of fatal crashes, including one where an off-duty policeman was fatally hit in Copenhagen by a speeding motorist doing over 120km/h in a 50km/h zone.

“In the last four or five years we have witnessed tragic incidents in the cities typically where reckless drivers have been speeding and resulted in other motorists and cyclists being killed. It has led to calls for politicians to do something about it. In terms of the new laws, he says there was general political support, though a few had reservations over the seizure of cars regardless of the ultimate owner.

It’s estimated that 510 vehicles have been seized since the rules came into affect on March 31st, of which 15 or so have reached court where there has been a ruling.

In all but one case – that of a motorbike which was returned to its actual owner – the court has ruled in favour of the police and the vehicles will be sold at police auctions, with the money going to the national treasury.

Three cars a day

On average police are currently seizing three cars a day, according to Christian Berthelsen, a spokesman for the Denmark’s National Traffic Center, speaking to national broadcaster DR.

While FDM supports a crackdown on reckless driving, it does take issue with the seizure of cars not owned by the offending motorist. According to the organisation, between March 31st and June 2nd, 166 vehicles were seized due to reckless driving. Of those 68 were owned by someone other than the driver.

Berthelsen said he was sympathetic to parents who lose their family car due to the reckless actions of their children, he said he focus is on the families who have lost loved ones dueto reckless driving. He said Denmark has to draw a line in the sand over bad driving that puts others lives at risk.