Debate on obligatory medical tests for European drivers to begin

More frequent renewals for over-70s could also be introduced, but topic is fiercely contested

Changes could mean everyone – even younger drivers – will face tests
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European legislators are set to debate changes to driving licences in the bloc next week, including the addition of obligatory medical tests for all drivers.

The European Parliament's transport committee narrowly voted in favour of bringing a set of new rules to the full parliament for discussion.

Original proposals by the EU Commission included a mandatory renewal of driving licences every 15 years – reduced to every five years for over 70s – with an obligatory medical test being part of the renewal process.

However, the bill is expected to be fiercely contested – the transport committee was split on the topic, only passing the proposals by one vote – and the EU has already accepted some measures may be watered down or replaced altogether.

One measure that has already been altered is the option of allowing countries to use ‘self assessment’ forms for people to declare they are fit to drive, as opposed to stringent medical checks.

It is also keen on each country maintaining a degree of autonomy over how the new rules are implemented.

If the bill is passed, legislators say rules will come into force from 2026 or 2027.

What are the current rules in France?

Currently, drivers in France with a ‘plastic credit-card style’ licence need to update it every 15 years.

Those with the older ‘pink cardboard’ licences have until January 19, 2033 to update this to a credit-card style licence, which will then need to be renewed every 15 years.

However, the renewal process itself is merely administrative and does not include the need for any further tests, except in certain rare circumstances.

This is the same for non-French people who exchange their licence for a French one. Some, especially Britons due to similar rules in the UK, believe they must renew their licence at 70 because their new French licence shows the number.

This is because in the UK all licences must be renewed at 70, alongside a health declaration from the driver (including the level of their eyesight).

However, this is not the case in France – 70 is simply a code used to let police officers and other people know the licence is a foreign one which has been exchanged.

Read more: UK driving licence exchange: Why is there a 70 on my new French one?

Rules differ widely across EU

However, many European countries have much stricter rules in place, which particularly impact older drivers.

Some countries require medical tests for drivers at a certain age to renew their licence (75 years in the Netherlands, 70 years in Denmark, 65 in Greece, 50 in Italy, etc).

In some countries, these tests must frequently be repeated, such as in Ireland where a yearly medical check-up is required for any driver over 70.

Portugal has the strictest laws, with a mandatory medical being required once a driver reaches 40 and then every two years after that.

How will these rules change?

The debate will take place on February 27, however it is uncertain how much of the current proposals will be retained, if the bill is passed at all.

The closeness of the original transport committee vote points towards an attempt by detractors, who are keen to limit the number of changes to driving licence rules, to water down the bill.

Original proposals from the transport committee would have seen blanket rules affect all EU countries, but the EU Commission has stated that each country will keep some autonomy over certain changes – including medical tests.

For example, if mandatory renewals come in as part of the changes, countries will be free to choose whether drivers must take an obligatory medical test alongside it, or fill in a ‘self-assessment’ form simply stating they are fit to drive.

For countries that do instil mandatory medical tests, the exact criteria of the exams will be up to each nation to decide.

As France is one of the countries where no checks are currently required, it is likely that the country will err on the side of fewer restrictions.

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