Not surprising really, when you consider that nearly a quarter of the UK’s 47.4 million adults have gone abroad by car – a total of 11.5 million.

However, there has been an unspoken culture among us Brits to ignore these far-flung missives. After all, what can they do?

One Italian friend, who now lives in Britain, told me to disregard the letter: “They’re so disorganised.” But another pal, who snared a parking ticket in Spain did this, only to find that she got stopped on a return visit to the country and was ordered to pay the fine – and more – at customs.

So what should you do if you get accused of a parking offence when you’re abroad? And what will actually happen if you ignore it?

Well, you won’t end up in jail. “Parking fines are a civil offence,” points out David Barton, a lawyer specialising in motoring offences. “So it’s about what it will cost you.”

First, don’t be put off by the time lapse between alleged offence and notification – in the case of Italy, the authorities have up to one year after they have obtained the driver’s details to make contact. This, however, changes from country to country. For example, in Germany, doubtless thanks to Teutonic efficiency, there is a three-month limit.

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