EC proposes digital driving licence valid throughout EU, and EU-wide driver disqualification

The European Commission (EC) presented proposals on March 1 to modernise driving licence rules, including the introduction of a digital driving licence valid throughout the EU, and new provisions to facilitate the enforcement of traffic rules across borders.

More than 20 000 lives were lost on EU roads in 2022  and the majority of victims were pedestrians, cyclists and users of scooters and motorbikes, the EC said.

“The new rules will improve safety for all road users,  and will help the EU achieve its Vision Zero – having no deaths on EU roads by 2050,” the statement said.

“They will prepare drivers better for zero-emission vehicles and for driving on city roads, alongside more bicycles and two-wheelers, and with many pedestrians around.”

The statement said that they would also allow young drivers to gain experience through an accompanied driving scheme – from the age of 17,   young people will be able to learn to drive and obtain a licence.

Those who pass at 17 will be able to drive alone from their 18th birthday, and to work as a professional driver as soon as a specific job allows. This will help address the current driver shortage.

The proposal on driving licences amends existing EU law and is inspired by best practices already in force in several Member States.

A key objective of the new rules will be improving road safety, with several measures.

These include a probation period of at least two years for novice drivers after passing the test, and a zero-tolerance rule on drink-driving. This is essential as even if young drivers only represent eight per cent of all car drivers, two out of five fatal collisions involve a driver or rider aged under 30, the EC said.

Another proposed measure is allowing young people to take their test and commence accompanied driving of cars and lorries from the age of 17, to gain driving experience.

The EC proposes adapting driver training and testing to better prepare drivers for the presence of vulnerable users on the road. This will help improve safety for pedestrians, cyclists, as well as users of e-scooters and e-bikes as the EU transitions to more sustainable urban mobility, it said.

It proposes a more targeted assessment of medical fitness, taking into account advances in medical treatment for diseases such as diabetes. Drivers will also be encouraged to update their driving skills and knowledge to keep up with technological developments.

“To simplify the recognition of driving licences between member states, the Commission proposes the introduction of a digital driving licence, in a world first,” the EC said.

“It will be much easier to replace, renew or exchange a driving licence since all procedures will be online.”

In the same vein, it will also be easier for citizens from non-EU countries with comparable road safety standards, to exchange their driving licence for an EU one, the statement said.

Current EU rules on cross-border enforcement have helped to ensure that non-resident road offenders do not remain anonymous, the EC said.

Nonetheless, in 2019 about 40 per cent of cross-border offences were committed with impunity, either because the offender was not identified or because the payment was not enforced, it said.

“Today’s proposals seek to address this by allowing enforcement authorities to gain access to national driving licence registers,” the EC said.

The Commission is also proposing to strengthen the role of established national contact points so they can better cooperate with the enforcement authorities involved in the investigation of offences.

This would address current shortcomings in cooperation between member states when investigating offences.

Furthermore, the current law covers some of the most frequent and egregious offences, such as speeding and drink-driving. The Commission proposes to expand the scope of traffic offences covered to not keeping sufficient distance from the vehicle in front; dangerous overtaking; dangerous parking; crossing one or more solid white lines; wrong-way driving; not respecting rules on the use of emergency corridors; and the use of an overloaded vehicle.

“These additions will help reduce impunity for such offences and improve member states’ ability to penalise offenders from other member states. It will also ensure equal treatment of resident and non-resident offenders.”

The updated laws will ensure that the  rights of people accused of traffic offences are upheld, the EC said.

Non-residents retain the right to an effective remedy and a fair trial, to the presumption of innocence, and to defence. These rights will be better guaranteed by provisions ensuring unified content and delivery^of penalty notices, by ensuring recipients of such notices are able to verify their authenticity, and by making the sharing of information with presumed offenders a standard requirement.

A dedicated IT portal will give citizens easy access to information on the road safety rules in place in each member state and, in time, allow them to pay any fines directly.

To prevent impunity among road traffic offenders, a new system will be put in place, allowing for an EU-wide driving disqualification when a member state decides to disqualify a driver because of an offence committed on its territory.

Holding road traffic offenders accountable in all member states is essential for road safety, the EC said.

However, under current rules, when a serious offence results in a driving disqualification, it cannot be enforced EU-wide if the driver committed the offence in a member state other than the one that issued his/her driving licence.

The March 1 proposal covers severe road traffic offences such as excessive speeding, driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, and causing death or serious bodily injury as a result of any traffic offence. 

The proposals will now be considered by the European Parliament and the Council of the EU.

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The Sofia Globe staff

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