Foreign drivers will have to pay on-the-spot fines of up to about $1,200 for flouting traffic laws under new legislation to be introduced next month.

If they do not have enough cash or a working credit card their vehicles will be clamped until they pay — and they will face an additional release fee of about $110.

The law will also apply to British residents who cannot prove at the roadside that they have a valid address in Britain.

The fines will be described officially as “deposits” when introduced on April 1 because the money would be refunded if the driver went to court and was found not guilty. In practice, very few foreign drivers are likely to return to Britain to contest their cases.

Foreign drivers are rarely prosecuted because police cannot take action against them if they fail to respond to a summons. Instead, officers often merely give verbal warnings.

Three million foreign-registered vehicles enter Britain each year. Polish vehicles account for 36 per cent, French vehicles for 10 per cent and German vehicles for 9 per cent.

Foreign vehicles are 30 per cent likelier to be in a crash than a British-registered vehicle, according to research by London Councils. The number of crashes caused by foreign vehicles increased by 47 per cent between 2002 and 2007. There were almost 400 deaths and serious injuries and 3,000 slight injuries from accidents involving foreign vehicles in 2007.

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