French MEP Karima Delli, who proposed making medical checks mandatory every fifteen years for most drivers, and five years for professional drivers.


MEPs put brakes on driver medical exams, outraging safety advocates


Road-safety advocates slammed the European Union after MEPs rejected a proposal to make health checks mandatory across Europe for people renewing their driving licences.

MEPs voted on February 28 to throw out French MEP Karima Delli’s proposal, which would have made medical checks mandatory every 15 years for most EU drivers and every five years for professional drivers.

“At the present time, you can get a licence at 18 and you don’t need a medical assessment until you’re 75. And that’s off the wall,” said Elber Twomey, an Irishwoman who has been campaigning for improved driving safety after her 16-month-old son died in a car crash.

“If you buy a car and it’s three years old, you have to take it for an NCT [an annual vehicle inspection in Ireland]. Why don’t you have to do that for a human?” added Twomey.

Fourteen EU Member States have compulsory medical examinations for driving licences but Germany and France do not. France’s automotive association called the Delli proposal an “openly hostile” move against drivers.

That came after Delli told the European Parliament on February 27: “The figures are terrible and you know them: 20,000 deaths per year on the roads of the European Union.”

She chairs the Parliament’s Committee on Transport and Tourism and the research platform EU Matrix named her the Parliament’s “most influential member” on transport policy in its latest rating.

While the proposal came from a French MEP, the strongest opposition came from France.

“Disproportionate”, discriminatory” and “very restrictive and costly”, said Jean-Paul Garraud, an MEP from Marine Le Pen’s Rassemblement National.

Twomey, though, said the rejected proposal did not go far enough.

“I think it should be five years for all of us and it should be less for professional drivers.

“If you look at from 30 to 40, 40 to 50, and the amount a human body changes” in that time, a medical exam might help “people who mightn’t realise they need glasses for anti-glare, for lights at night”, she added.

Currently, Portugal requires a medical exam for people over 40 years old renewing their driving licences. Italy does so at 50. Spain requires one at 65, Denmark and Finland at 70 and Ireland and the Netherlands do at 75.

While MEPs put the brakes on the proposal for mandatory health checks, they did approve other changes – including an EU-wide “digital” driving licence that can be carried on a mobile phone.

Another proposal MEPs adopted was to create an EU-wide framework to recognise the driving licences and qualifications of lorry and bus drivers from outside the EU.

The bloc faces a “chronic shortage of drivers” in these areas and is “already missing over 500,000 professional drivers”, according to Raluca Marian, Director of EU advocacy for the International Road Transport Union, which represents lorry drivers and transport companies.

While rejecting Delli’s amendment, MEPs approved the updated driving-licence directive with 339 votes in favour, 240 against and 37 abstentions.

The law will now wait until after early June’s European Parliament elections for a final decision.