SUV (symbolic image): Will you need your own driver's license for such a car in the future?
Photo: Getty Images
Cars are getting bigger and heavier, and an average new car in Germany now weighs around 1.6 tonnes. But the majority of Germans do not want to come to terms with the new normal of the controversial SUVs. Such vehicles would no longer be allowed to be driven with a normal driver's license, according to almost half of those surveyed by the opinion research institute Civey for SPIEGEL.
48 percent of the participants in a survey conducted in mid-October were in favor of limiting new car driving licenses for novice drivers to a vehicle weight of less than 1.8 tons. Some of the best-selling models such as the VW Tiguan, Tesla Model Y or BMW X1 would be taboo. Only 34 percent were against it. (Read more about the Civey methodology here.)
Until now, the category B driving licence entitles the holder to drive a car up to a maximum permissible mass of 3.5 tonnes. Karima Delli has proposed a 1.8-tonne limit and a new, special driving licence category B+ for heavier vehicles. The French Green politician and chairwoman of the transport committee in the European Parliament suggested that for such a card, drivers should have completed special training and have survived a two-year probationary period and be at least 21 years old.
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This was part of several of Delli's ideas for a reform of the European driving licence rules planned by the EU Commission. The European Road Safety Council welcomed the initiative and pointed to the dangers to life that grow with the mass of vehicles.
For her proposals, the Frenchwoman reaped a storm of indignation in German politics, even from her Green party friends. The "Bild" newspaper wrote of a "driver's license hammer", while Transport Minister Volker Wissing criticized the "massive encroachment on the freedom of citizens".
Mandatory fitness tests for the elderly? A speed limit for boys? Not all of Delli's suggestions were properly understood, but that got lost in the excitement. This makes it all the more astonishing that they meet with a mixed picture of opinion in Germany.
The SPIEGEL survey reveals a pattern, albeit an expected one: those who would be affected by them tend to oppose new regulations.
Older people against "driving licence TÜV" for older people
Should seniors have to undergo a test of their fitness to drive? The debate about a "driving licence inspection" is a perennial issue, and it has been reignited by the EU's plans. In March, the European Commission proposed that people over the age of seventy should either complete a self-assessment of their fitness to drive or undergo a medical examination every five years – which of these should be decided by the member states. Delli suggests, for example, regular vision or hearing tests for everyone, as is already common in Italy, i.e. not just for the elderly.
Among the German respondents, almost one in two is against fitness tests for seniors – although quite a few (39 percent) also approve of the idea. The rejection is particularly high among those in question, i.e. the over-65s: 61 percent of them reject such a mandatory test. Respondents under 50 are more likely to be in favor.
In surveys conducted by other clients on the same topic with slightly different questions, there were even overall majorities in favor of suitability tests. The comparison portal Verivox, for example, conducted a survey at the end of August in which 74 percent of respondents agreed to regular checks. There was also a clear majority in the 70 to 79 age group. Most respondents also thought that tests at five-year intervals were too rare. They found self-assessments by questionnaire instead of a medical examination to be unsuitable.
This calls into question a tenet of German politics: anything that runs counter to the interests of older voters has no chance. Transport Minister Wissing does not think much of a fitness test obligation, as does the ADAC. The German Road Safety Council also rejects it – and refers to the accident statistics: According to them, older people are less likely to be involved in accidents than would correspond to their share of the population.
Judging by how rarely they drive a car, however, the very elderly in particular are conspicuously often involved in accidents. In addition, they bear the brunt of the blame for a high proportion of cases. Accident researcher Siegfried Brockmann is therefore calling for a "feedback drive" from the age of 75: a driving lesson, for example, with a driving instructor, with feedback and recommendations on which routes seniors should avoid. Or, in case of doubt, with the insight to surrender the driver's license voluntarily.
Majority wants speed limit for young people – just not the young
An even bigger taboo in German politics is a speed limit. But could this possibly only apply to novice drivers? The European Green MEP imagines that they should drive a maximum of 110 km/h on motorways – as is already the case in her home country.
On this question, the ratios are reversed: a majority, namely 59 percent of respondents, think the idea is good. Now, however, it is the younger ones who think less of it: the younger the respondents, the greater the rejection.
Great support for smoking ban in cars
In addition to the proposals for new European driving licence directives, another idea has been the subject of discussion in recent weeks: a ban on smoking in cars. Federal Health Minister Karl Lauterbach (SPD) planned such a ban for closed vehicles when pregnant women or minors are in the car.
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Such a regulation was included in a draft bill by Lauterbach's ministry – but it was missing from the draft law ultimately adopted by the federal cabinet. The FDP and the CDU/CSU had strongly criticized the proposal, which in turn caused paediatricians and adolescent doctors or the federal government's drug commissioner to shake their heads.
In any case, when it comes to smoking, Germans have little against a prohibition policy: Three out of four respondents would approve of Lauterbach's initiative – only a minority of 15 percent are against it.
The ban on smoking in cars would have been added to the Non-Smoker Protection Act in the course of cannabis legalisation. Now the cannabis law is on its way without this passage.
However, as far as the other proposals for the European driving licence directives are concerned, the last word has not yet been spoken. According to information from the EU Parliament, the transport committee there is to make a decision on this in December. Then it will become clear whether the driver's license hammer will fall after all.
With material from dpa