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France may allow 17-year-olds to get driving licences

Young people aged 17 may soon be able to get their driving licence in France, under certain conditions, according to a new parliamentary report.

The measure has the support of Christophe Ramond, director of studies and research at road safety agency Prévention Routière, provided certain safety conditions are met.

These include not allowing 17-year-olds to drive at night, and ensuring that young people are able to spend several years “driving accompanied” first, as a way to increase their confidence on the roads.

Mr Ramond admitted that allowing younger people to drive “would present a greater risk”, but that certain measures would help. He added that dropping the driving age would also allow younger people to become more independent, socially and professionally.

Under the new rules, 17-year-olds would not be able to drive alone between midnight and 6h, and would need to be under parent supervision during these hours.

He said: “Nighttime represents a low amount of traffic, but also 44% of road deaths. Firstly, at night, we see less well, and there is less traffic so we tend to drive faster. There are also many high-risk behaviours, especially driving under the influence of drink and drugs. Avoiding these situations makes up for [needing] to drive earlier.”

Mr Ramond also said that young people would need to spend several years “driving accompanied” - called “conduite accompagnée” in French.

This is an existing practice in France, currently taken up by 24% of young people.

He said: “There is an advantage to learning [like this]. We are going to increase situations of supervised driving, with parents - when it is nighttime, or in bad weather conditions. This allows learners to start to drive themselves, in complete confidence.

“Driving accompanied allows people to drive alone, earlier. Young people who go to traditional [driving] schools, will drive at age 19, and there is a delay in starting to drive alone. During that year, we may take risks that others do not.”

He added: “Young people may go out more, hence the need for parents to remain cautious. But, on the other hand, this measure will help to promote mobility and professional involvement. There are many advantages to dropping the driving age.”

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