EU member states free to decide how to test drivers over 70

European Union member states will be free to decide how to test the driving skills of people over 70, the European Commission clarified on Wednesday. A Commission proposal to require older drivers to renew their licences every five years was sharply criticised in Belgium and elsewhere last week.

Belgian Mobility minister Georges Gilkinet (Ecolo, French-speaking greens) vehemently opposed the proposal last Thursday, while the Belgian seniors' association OKRA called it "pure age discrimination". Criticism in Belgium and other member states has prompted the Commission to clarify its proposal.

Currently, all EU countries have the option of limiting the validity of driving licences of people over 50, allowing them to carry out more frequent medical checks or implement refresher courses, for example. "Many member states make use of this, but Belgium is not one of them," said Commission spokesperson Adalbert Jahnz.

The new proposal would raise the age limit to 70 and make it compulsory for member states to limit the validity of licences issued to this age group. 

"The age limit would be raised because age alone is not a good indicator of a person's fitness to drive. It would be more efficient to have a mandatory fitness check when a licence is issued or renewed," said Jahnz. Only those applying for or renewing a licence with medical problems would have to undergo a medical examination.

National decision

Restricting the validity of driving licences from the age of 70 is motivated by the fact that driving ability declines in later life and by the increasing proportion of over-65s among fatally injured car drivers and passengers, the Commission said. 

"However, what concrete measure each member state then imposes on them - such as a self-assessment questionnaire or a mandatory medical check-up - would be a national decision."

The aim is not to take away driving licences from older people "but to ensure that member states have the means to find out which drivers are no longer physically and mentally fit to drive", Jahnz said.

Member states and the European Parliament are discussing the proposal. The Commission acknowledges that the issue has proved controversial and does not rule out modifying the measure.



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