Proposal for Mandatory Medical Checks for Drivers in the EU

Wed 28th Feb, 2024

Image by Jonathan Judmaier from PixabayThe recent incident in Siegen, North Rhine-Westphalia, where a 90-year-old driver accidentally ran over his wife's arm, has reignited discussions on the fitness of seniors to drive. As the EU Parliament prepares to vote on the matter, a debate has emerged over the potential introduction of mandatory medical checks for drivers across the European Union.

Unlike Germany, where medical tests for older drivers are not obligatory, many EU countries already incorporate physical fitness, vision, and hearing assessments into the renewal process for driver's licenses. For instance, in Italy, individuals over 80 must undergo medical examinations every two years, while in Spain, drivers aged 65 and above are required to have a medical examination every five years for license renewal.

EU parliamentarians, particularly those from southern EU countries, advocate for regular medical examinations, drawing from existing mandatory practices in their home countries. However, the proposed introduction of such tests is met with controversy, with varying opinions on their meaning and effectiveness.

French Green MP Karima Delli, who will present the report for the EU Parliament's vote, argues that mandatory medical examinations contribute to road safety. She points out that a majority of EU states already mandate such tests, citing countries like Greece, the Czech Republic, Belgium, and Lithuania.

In contrast, FDP MP Jan-Christoph Oetjen contends that introducing EU-wide tests may create a false sense of security and suggests that a one-size-fits-all approach is unnecessary. The ADAC, a German automobile club, echoes this sentiment, stating that imposing aptitude tests for seniors may not be proportionate, as older road users generally adopt a cautious driving style.

The debate extends beyond seniors, as the proposal suggests extending mandatory medical examinations to new drivers and requiring them every 15 years. While a majority vote in favor of harmonizing driving license regulations is possible in the EU Parliament, subsequent legislative processes could still alter the outcome.

German Transport Minister Volker Wissing, from the FDP, opposes mandatory examinations, citing concerns about the bureaucratic burden. He emphasizes the importance of personal responsibility, stating that individuals are best suited to assess their own ability to drive. Wissing argues against the need for forms and reports, which he believes create unnecessary bureaucracy.

Many German members of the EU Parliament, including traffic expert Thomas Rudner (SPD), share concerns about the practicality of implementing mandatory medical tests, estimating millions of additional examinations per year in Germany. Critics argue that voluntary examinations for drivers over 70 and compulsory tests for those over 80 would be more sensible.

In Berlin, transportation specialists, including Bernd Reuther of the FDP parliamentary group, firmly reject mandatory health tests, deeming them disproportionate and scientifically unjustified. Green Party spokesperson Stefan Gelbhaar suggests focusing on regular eyesight checks at all ages and developing suitable criteria or intervals for health checks.

Image by Jonathan Judmaier from Pixabay


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