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European licence proposal: different speed limits for cars and motorcycles

If you thought the current driving licence directive was a monstrosity, wait until you read some of the proposals in the European Parliament rapporteur’s draft report on the proposal by the European Commission to revise the directive. Perhaps the most bizarre proposal: different speed limits for different vehicles…

FEMA considers a proper and balanced driving licence directive as one of the most important instruments for road safety. It should also ensure that it facilitates our citizens in mobility needs. A good driving license system enables citizens of all ages in using their own transport modes to participate in the society, go to school or work and to visit relatives and friends where walking, cycling or public transport are not the best way to fulfil these needs. L-category vehicles (two- or three-wheel vehicles and quadricycles) provide in this demand for mobility in a relatively cheap, safe, and environmentally friendly way as L-vehicles are much smaller and lighter than cars and vans.

Age requirements
It is for this reason that we put much value at the freedom of Member States to gain access to L-category vehicles at lower ages to enable younger people to go to school, work, friends, and family in rural parts of Europe where there are no or not enough alternatives like public transport. For this reason, we are worried that the Parliament rapporteur’s draft report removes the possibility for member states to give access to L-category vehicles at a lower age. This will limit the possibility for younger people in rural areas to participate in the society and limit their opportunities for education. We cannot support and advise to reject this proposal.

Access conditions
The present system of stepped entry to A2 and A motorcycle licenses already contains many flaws and has never been properly researched for effectiveness. Next to the stepped entry, both the current directive and the proposal from the European Commission enable direct entrance to the full A driving licence from the age of 24. At this age, future motorcyclists already have had experience with other vehicles. Currently, 23 Member States have implemented this opportunity. We see no need for and regret the proposal to remove the opportunity for direct access at the full A license at 24 years. We advise to reject the amendment.

Various speed limits
The rapporteur proposes differentiated speed limits for holders of A1, A2 and A motorcycle licences. This will lead to situations where motorcyclists will be confronted with other, larger, and heavier, vehicles with higher speed limits on the same roads. We consider this a dangerous situation for already vulnerable road users and for other road users because this will lead to car drivers “pushing” (keeping to little distance to vehicles in front) motorcyclists and more overtaking manoeuvres. Furthermore, numerous studies and statistical information show that most incidents in which motorcyclists are involved, even crashes with critical ending, happen at relatively lower speeds on rural and urban roads, where speed limits are usually well below 100 km/h. Only 8% of the motorcycle fatalities occur on motorways. Lower speeds limits for certain kinds of vehicles that are allowed on all roads do not contribute to road safety and will bring extra risks for some categories of road users like younger motorcyclists. We strongly advise to reject this proposal for safety reasons.

Examination when issuing or renewing driving licences
The rapporteur proposes more and stronger examinations when issuing or renewing driving licences. Furthermore, the Rapporteur wants shorter interval than the Commission proposes and even shorter intervals for drivers and riders above 60 years of age. We see this as an extra and unnecessary threshold for citizens to apply for and renew a driving licence, not in the least because of the costs that come with this. Especially elderly citizens in rural areas will be affected by this measure that not only might lead to social exclusion, but also may hold them from visits to doctors and hospitals. Next to the substantial financial burdens this may bring, there is also the issue of capacity. In many countries, there is already a capacity problem with general practitioners, control physicians, and specialists. We advise to reject this proposal.

We have noticed that in many places the rapporteur inserted elements that do not seem to have the purpose to enhance road safety, but to promote a mobility change from powered individual transport modes to so-called active modes. Although we understand the motives behind this, in our view this directive should not be used for other purposes than to enhance road safety. Although FEMA is in favour of road safety training and education at primary and secondary schools, this should be with the purpose of increasing road safety and not turn into propaganda for active mobility.

We have also noticed that several proposals will lead to extra costs for drivers and riders. Although the rapporteur recognises that in respect to some proposes measures “nevertheless in some instances its affordability is a barrier”, she throws that aspect over the fence of the national authorities, instead of trying to avoid it. Periodic medical examinations, for elderly people even up to every two years lead to substantial financial burdens and capacity issues.

Rapporteur Karima Delli MEP member of the Group of the Greens/European Free Alliance (photo: European Parliament).

The report, and the amendments to the Commission’s proposal, do not comply with the need for more road safety, social inclusion of younger and elderly citizens, and affordability of transport. FEMA has written to the rapporteur, MEP Ms Karima Delli, and to the members of the European Parliament’s Committee on Transport and Tourism (TRAN) with its concerns.

Here are some of the rapporteur’s proposals:

  • The rapporteur would like to see a points-based licence system introduced throughout the entire European Union.
  • The rapporteur says Member States should include lessons on road safety and alternative forms of mobility in secondary-school curricula.
  • The rapporteur is proposing speed limits that vary according to the category of driving licence held by drivers, a factor that reflects their vehicles’ likelihood of being involved in an accident.
  • The rapporteur believes that the flexibility in the current directive and the proposal enabling the Member States to lower the minimum age for certain categories of driving licence should be removed.
  • The rapporteur suggests raising the minimum age for the A1 driving licence.
  • The rapporteur wants a new category of driving licence – category B+, for cars weighing over 1.8 tonnes – which could be obtained by applicants of 21 years or older only and after a two-year probationary period after gaining a category B licence.
  • The rapporteur believes that driving licences should be valid for a maximum of 10 years.
  • For novice drivers, the administrative validity of their licences should be reduced to a maximum of two years, after which time they will be required to attend a refresher course on how to behave while driving.
  • The administrative validity of licences for drivers aged 60 or over should also be reduced to ensure that they are fully fit to drive.
  • A medical examination should be compulsory for anyone taking a driving test or renewing a driving licence.

Written by Dolf Willigers & Wim Taal

Top photo courtesy of

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