Driving at 17 and with a digital licence, the European Parliament is rewriting the rules on driving licences in the Old Continent. The subject came up for review which was originally presented almost a year ago by the European Commission. Today, in most European countries, you have to be at least 18 years old to drive.

With the aim of reducing the number of deaths on the roads of the 27 member states (around 20,000 per year), the Strasbourg plenary approved the proposed updates. There were 339 votes in favour, 240 "no" votes and 37 abstentions. Let's take a look at what's new.

Enabled at 17

To begin with - and as mentioned - MEPs approved the issuing of driving licences for 17-year-olds, who will be able to drive cars and lorries as long as they are accompanied by an "experienced driver" (a concept not specifically defined, at least in the European Parliament's press release).

When they reach the age of adulthood, they will be able to drive on their own. However, newly qualified drivers will be subject to special scrutiny for at least two years, with stricter alcohol limits and higher penalties for dangerous driving.

"To alleviate the shortage of professional drivers," says the note, "MPs also decided to allow 18-year-olds to obtain a licence to drive lorries or buses with up to 16 passengers, provided they hold a certificate of professional competence."

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Valid for 15 years

Instead of a medical examination, fitness to drive could be assessed on the basis of a simple self-certification, both at the time of issue and at the time of renewal. The decision will be up to each country, which in any case is called upon to "raise public awareness of the mental and physical signs that can put a person at risk".

Once obtained, the licence will last at least 15 years for cars and motorbikes and five years for trucks and buses. On the other hand, the European Parliament does not agree with reducing the validity for the elderly, as proposed by the Commission, in order to "avoid discrimination and guarantee the rights to freedom of movement and participation in economic and social life".

Europe will finally have a digital wallet

Before that, however, there is the "examination" chapter, which will focus more on driving in real conditions. Therefore, more attention will be paid to protecting pedestrians, children, cyclists and motorcyclists. There will also be tests on snow and slippery roads, safety when opening doors and the safe use of mobile phones.

Speaking of smartphones, last but not least among the new features is the introduction of the digital driving licence available on mobile phones and "fully equivalent to a physical driving licence". It will now be up to the new European Parliament, which will be elected between 6 and 9 June, to take the driving licence reform project forward.