EU parliament votes against mandatory medical visits for drivers

Individual countries are however invited to adopt the measure

The debate around mandatory medical visits will now continue in France
Published Last updated

Article published February 28

The EU parliament has voted against making medical visits mandatory for driver licence renewals but has encouraged countries to make their own laws.

Karima Delli, part of the parliament’s Transport Committee, gave a press conference today (February 28) announcing the result, after European MPs voted on proposed regulations.

The changes were put forward by the parliamentary Transport Committee, who themselves narrowly voted in favour of the measures at the end of last year.

Some changes to legislation on driving licences were adopted but an amendment to add the medical visits was rejected with 323 votes against and 270 in favour.

Instead, drivers should assess their own fitness to drive when a licence is being issued and renewed, the MEPs said. However, countries can decide for themselves if this should be replaced by a medical examination with minimal checks such as eyesight and cardiovascular health.

Though Mrs Delli was disappointed that mandatory medical tests every fifteen years were not adopted, she was pleased that the topic was brought forward and that it will continue to be debated in France and across the EU.

Mrs Delli added that she hoped Member States consider adopting the measures, but that they are under no obligation to do so.

Changes adopted include a mandatory two-year ‘probationary’ licence for new drivers with a maximum blood alcohol level of 0.2.

However, these rules already apply in France, with the exception of people who learned to drive with the conduite accompagnée (typically involving a mixture of lessons and practice with a family member) system and who also take an optional short road safety course after passing the test, whose probationary licence is only for a year and a half.

The MEPs also wanted drivers to be better prepared for 'real life' situations they will come across, and want driving in slippery conditions, phone use, blind spots, driver assistance systems and making sure it is safe to open the doors to all be added to driving tests.

The changes are part of the EU’s plans to halve road traffic deaths and injuries by 2030 and eliminate them completely by 2050.

Medical tests already obligatory in some countries

There are 14 countries across the bloc which already have some form of mandatory medical test in place, usually for drivers past a certain age.

In France however a medical examination for a driving licence can only be demanded under certain circumstances, such as for specific jobs (taxi drivers etc.) or if the holder has a medical condition that might affect their driving such as diabetes.

In addition, unlike in certain countries, there is no specific age at which drivers must renew their licence, or begin to renew it more frequently. For example, in the UK all licences must be renewed when the driver reaches 70.

An alternative to medical check-ups is self-assessment forms, with drivers being able to declare themselves fit when renewing their licence.

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

In France, current rules on driving licence renewal state that the plastic card-style licences must be renewed every 15 years (with the first renewals taking place from 2028 onwards).

The older pink paper licences must be renewed before January 2033, being converted into credit card-style licences, and then after this must also be renewed every 15 years.

However, this is just an administrative formality and you do not to take any 'top-up' driving test.

The validity of your licence categories (i.e, which type of vehicle you can drive) remains for life. You can learn more about the current rules (in English) here.

A hotly debated topic

French MEPs including Dominique Riquet of the Renew party backed making medical visits mandatory, calling it “controversial but necessary.”

“It is not intended to penalise drivers, but to protect [everyone] using public areas,” he said.

“It's not an attack on the driving licence… how can we justify the idea that our vehicles have to undergo regular tests, but not drivers?” he added.

Read more: Mixed bag as our readers respond to debate on tests for older drivers

In addition, Italian MEP Achille Variati called the concept “vital”, adding that these were “precautionary principles” required to improve road safety.

However, a number of groups are against the measure potentially being introduced and MEPs voiced their opposition in the plenary.

“As a [political] group, we cannot accept obligatory medical controls,” said Polish MEP Elżbieta Katarzyna Łukacijewska.

“Especially… if this would be exclusively down to age and not objective health issues,” she added.

French drivers association 40 million d’automobilistes have launched a petition calling for ‘licences for life’ to remain in place.

It is unfair for licences to be withdrawn from those who have not done anything wrong, says the group.

It is now up to the French government to decide the rules regarding mandatory medical checks for French licence holders.

Related articles

French driving licence: mobile app lets you keep original at home

Do police officers need reason to stop and control drivers in France?