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Swiss consider dropping legal driving age to 16

Malcolm Curtis · 26 Aug 2013, 10:42

Published: 26 Aug 2013 10:42 GMT+02:00

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The proposal is one of the ideas to improve training of drivers discussed by officials this summer, the NZZ am Sonntag newspaper reported.

The federal office of highways is set to draw up a list of recommendations by the end of the year, including the scheme for 16-year-olds.

Drivers in Switzerland are currently only allowed to receive a driver’s permit from the age of 18.

But groups such as the Touring Club Suisse (TCS) have been promoting the idea of allowing younger drivers, as long as they are accompanied by older adults with good driving records.

Under the proposal, those accompanying the youths would have to follow a specific training course.

Mauro Poggia, a federal MP from Geneva, filed a motion in December 2012 proposing the introduction of such a programme, saying that it has several advantages.

“It develops certain skills in traffic, notably the anticipation of danger,” Poggia is quoted as saying by Le Matin.

“Without forgetting that, if the youth behind the wheel is accompanied by his father or mother it can reinforce family ties.”

Other supporters of the proposal point to how similar programmes introduced in Germany and France have led to fewer accidents.

In France, youths from the age of 16 are permitted to drive with someone accompanying them who is at least 23-years-old and has held a driving permit for at least five years with an unblemished record.

The youth must first take an initial course from a driving school and subsequently has to take a course and pass a test at the age of 18.

Story continues below…

In Germany, it is possible to have a driver’s permit from the age of 17 if the person is accompanied by a driver who is at least 30 years old with a clean record.

Britain is the only country in Europe where youths can obtain a permit to drive unaccompanied at the age of 17.

Critics of the proposal under study in Bern say that Swiss roads are already too crowded and accelerating the number of potential additional motorists — 40,000 a year — doesn’t make any sense.

It goes against programmes that encourage young people to take public transport, detractors say.

Opponents also question whether 16-year-olds are sufficiently mature to be piloting vehicles that can be lethal weapons if driven irresponsibly.

Malcolm Curtis (news@thelocal.ch)

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