European Parliament backs updates to EU rules on driving licences to improve road safety

Mobile driving licences, self-assessment of fitness to drive and better awareness of pedestrians are some of the changes to EU driving licence rules approved by the European Parliament on February 28.

With more than 20 000 lives lost on EU roads every year, the European Parliament backs reforming the EU’s driving licence rules to make sure they contribute to road safety and to the EU’s green and digital transitions, the European Parliament said in a statement.

MEPs agreed that driving licences should be valid for at least 15 years for motorcycles and cars, and five years for lorries and buses. They do not support reducing the validity of driving licences for elderly people –as proposed by the European Commission-, to avoid discrimination and to ensure their right to freedom of movement and participation in economic and social life.

MEPs agreed with drivers assessing their own fitness to drive when a driving licence is being issued and renewed, letting EU countries decide if the self-assessment should be replaced by a medical examination with a minimum set of checks on drivers’ eyesight and cardiovascular conditions amongst others. However, MEPs want EU governments to put more effort into raising public awareness of mental and physical signals that may put a person at risk when driving.

Inexperienced drivers would have to undergo a probationary driving period of at least two years during which they would be subject to certain restrictions, such as stricter alcohol limits while driving and stricter penalties for unsafe driving, MEPs say.

To mitigate the shortage of professional drivers, MEPs also agreed to allow 18-year-olds to obtain a licence to drive a lorry or a bus with up to 16 passengers, provided they hold a certificate of professional competence. In addition, 17-year-olds should also be eligible for a driving licence for cars or lorries if accompanied by an experienced driver, the draft says.

To support the EU’s single market, MEPs are in favour of introducing a digital driving licence, available on a mobile phone and fully equivalent to the physical driver’s licence.

MEPs want drivers to be better prepared for real driving situations and be aware of the risks, in particular for vulnerable road users such as pedestrians, children, cyclists and users of e-scooters. Therefore driving in snow and slippery conditions, safe phone use while driving, blind spots, driver-assistance systems and ensuring it is safe to open the vehicle doors should also be part of driver’s tests to get a licence, they add.

The draft rules on EU driving licences were adopted by 339 votes in favour, 240 against and 37 abstentions, constituting the European Parliament’s position at first reading. The file will be followed up by the new European Parliament after the European elections on June 6 to 9.

(Photo: Peter Suneson/

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