Why bad driving might cost you your car in Denmark – even if it’s rented

Three months after a new law that allowed Danish police to seize vehicles of ‘crazy drivers,’ more than 230 vehicles have been confiscated, including nearly 100 rental or leased cars.

Why bad driving might cost you your car in Denmark - even if it’s rented
Photo: Linda Kastrup / Ritzau Scanpix

Three months after a Porsche 993 was seized by police for travelling at 212 km/h on Helsingør motorway, the leasing company that owned the vehicle still isn’t sure if the car will be returned to them.

The vehicle was confiscated as part of a new law that came into effect March 31st, the day before the Porsche was seized.

The law allows police to seize vehicles in the event of particularly bad driving. If agreed to by a judge, police can permanently confiscate and auction off the vehicle to the benefit of the Danish treasury. 

What is “crazy driving”?

Crazy driving (vanvidskørsel) includes manslaughter by negligence or causing significant injury by negligence. Vanvidskørsel also includes driving more than 100 percent above the speed limit if the speed limit is more than 100 km/h, driving more than 200 km/h regardless of speed limit, driving with a blood alcohol content above 2.0, and “particularly reckless driving.”

The law even applies to rented and leased vehicles, like the Porsche mentioned above, leased by Breinholt & Ree Leasing. In another instance, the police seized a car a man had borrowed from a family member when he was caught driving 100 km/h in a 50 km/h zone in Amager.

So if you’re on holiday in Denmark in a rental car, drive carefully or you could be left with no car and a huge bill from the very annoyed rental company.

How common is it for cars to be seized?

According to data from the national police, 237 vehicles have been seized in the three months since the law came into effect. Ninety-four of the vehicles were not being driven by the car’s owner at the time of seizure.

Is the whole decision up to the police?

After a car has been seized by police, it’s up to a judge to decide if the vehicle can be permanently confiscated. This comes down to whether the owner of the vehicle could know the driver might drive it in ways covered by this law.

Among other factors, the judge considers if the owner performed a background check on the customer. 

The Danish Parliament granted leasing companies the ability to view customers’ tax information (if the customer provides consent), as well as previous instances of insane driving listed on the offender’s criminal record.

If it’s a rented or leased vehicle, who foots the bill?

Rental agencies and leasing companies may require customers to foot the bill of the vehicle, if they are responsible for its seizure. If the customer cannot or will not pay, it’s possible for the loss to be covered by the leasing company’s insurance. 

Known as an F-declaration, the insurance company would pay the majority of the bill while the leasing company would chip in a small part. However, insurance companies have also baulked at the new law.

How are “crazy drivers” punished?

If the driver is in his or her own vehicle, the confiscation of the car is one form of punishment. 

Penalties for the most serious offences have also been increased, including an unconditional revocation of the drivers’ license for a minimum of three years.

Is there any chance this law might be changed?

On January 14th, the European Court of Justice declared that governments cannot confiscate rented, borrowed or leased vehicles if the owner of the car “acted in good faith.” 

The decision was upheld in March, which propelled Denmark’s Parliament to give leasing companies access to the tools they need to vet potential customers. However, the digital tools are not yet available three months after the law came into effect.

Denmark’s Transportation Ministry expects them to be ready this fall.

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‘Wind-sensitive’ vehicles in Denmark: What are they and when are they not allowed on bridges?

Denmark often experiences windy weather. This can result in road authorities temporarily banning or advising against the use of the country’s long bridges for vehicles categorised as ‘wind-sensitive’ (vindfølsom). Which vehicles does this term cover?

'Wind-sensitive' vehicles in Denmark: What are they and when are they not allowed on bridges?

Friday’s weather was so windy that ‘wind-sensitive’ (vindfølsomme) vehicles were forbidden from using the Great Belt Bridge, the 18-kilometre fixed link connecting Funen and Zealand.

Bridge operator Sund & Bælt tweeted the temporary measure to prevent vehicles susceptible to high winds from using the bridge.

In Jutland, road authority Vejdirektoratet advised such vehicles from using the Vejle Fjord Bridge, for similar reasons (although they didn’t outright ban it).

Such situations are not uncommon in Denmark, wear windy weather occurs frequently and there are several high, long bridges. The Øresund Bridge, connecting Copenhagen to Malmö in Sweden, also experiences occasional closures to high vehicles or warnings due to the wind.

So how do you know if your vehicle is classed as “wind-sensitive” and therefore affected by weather advice or temporary closure of Danish bridges?

In general, the term vindfølsom encompasses cars with caravans or trailers; camper vans, commercial vans, empty lorries or lorries with very light loads. The list is not exhaustive and it’s the driver’s responsibility to make an honest assessment of their vehicle. A more detailed definition follows below.

On the Great Belt Bridge, such vehicles are not permitted to use the bridge when the wind is stronger than 15 metres per second, operator Sund & Bælt states on its website.

The reason the above vehicles are singled out is because they have a larger surface area than smaller cars and can therefore become destabilised by strong winds if they are not carrying heavy loads.

Normal cars are usually able to use bridges safely in all wind conditions, provided drivers comply with recommended speed limits. These are displayed on the bridge and are reduced if there are very strong winds.

All vehicles that are towing (caravans or trailers) are considered sensitive to the wind, regardless of the vehicle itself.

Empty or light lorries are considered wind-sensitive if the weight of their trailer is less than 10 tonnes, Sund & Bælt states.

Camper vans under 3.5 tonnes also come into the sensitive category.

Signs on the approach to the Great Belt Bridge provide advice to motorists in windy conditions. If the wind is “hard”, meaning over 10 metres per second, yellow flashing lights, signs and wind socks on the bridge warn drivers of the strength and direction of the wind.

Once winds go above 15 metres per second (kuling or gale force with side winds), signs approaching the final motorway exit before the bridge advise drivers that wind-sensitive vehicles are currently not permitted on the bridge.

In such situations, the speed limit on the bridge is reduced to 80 kilometres per hour.

Even stronger winds over 20 metres per second (stormende kuling or storm gale force) result in speed limits being further reduced to 50 kilometres per hour.

Winds over 25 metres per second are considered a full storm and the bridges are closed, with signs advising motorists of the expected delays and closure times. Closure warnings are displayed prior to the last exit before the bridge.