Road safety: Driving licences

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Road safety: Driving licences

Outline of the Community (European Union) legislation about Road safety: Driving licences


These categories group together and put in context the legislative and non-legislative initiatives which deal with the same topic.

Transport > Road transport

Road safety: Driving licences

Document or Iniciative

Directive 2006/126/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 20 December 2006 on driving licences.


This Directive recasts Directive 91/439/EEC – which it repeals – and incorporates into it the amendments previously introduced by Directives 94/72/EC, 96/47/EC, 97/26/EC, 2000/56/EC and 2003/59/EC.

The Directive also introduces substantive changes with the aim of:

  • reducing the scope for fraud: the Directive replaces the paper driving licence with a model in the form of a plastic card. Existing paper licences do not need to be exchanged, but will no longer be issued once the new legislation applies. European Union (EU) countries which so wish may equip the new licence with a microchip incorporating the information printed on the card;
  • ensuring the free movement of citizens: driving licence holders will retain their acquired rights, but regular renewal of the document will limit the scope for fraud by allowing the protection features of all licences, and the holder’s photograph, to be updated. All licences will have a given period of validity and will be unconditionally valid in all EU countries.
    All new category A (motorcycles) and category B (cars) licences issued after the Directive enters into force will in principle be valid for 10 years (EU countries may opt for an administrative validity of up to 15 years). All new category C (lorries) and category D (buses/coaches) licences are valid for 5 years;
  • helping to improve road safety: the Directive introduces a new category of licence for mopeds and harmonises the frequency of medical checks for professional drivers. It also introduces minimum requirements for the initial qualification and the training of driving examiners.

The Directive also takes over the substance of the existing legislation: EU countries’ national driving licences must be based on the EU model. Licences issued by EU countries must be mutually recognised. Page 1 of the licence must contain the distinguishing sign of each country.

The driving licence may authorise the holder to drive vehicles in the following categories:

  • category A – motorcycles weighing less than 750 kg;
  • category B – vehicles weighing less than 3 500 kg or caravans weighing less than 4 250 kg;
  • category B+E – combinations consisting of a category B vehicle and trailer;
  • category C – vehicles weighing more than 3 500 kg;
  • category C+E – combinations consisting of a category C vehicle and trailer;
  • category D – vehicles having more than 8 seats;
  • category D+E – combinations consisting of a category D vehicle and trailer.

Specific driving licences can be obtained for certain categories depending on the maximum cubic capacity and the maximum power in kW (kilowatts).

Driving licences must state the conditions subject to which the driver is authorised to drive. If, because of a physical disability, driving is authorised only for certain types of vehicle or for adapted vehicles, then this should be reflected through a specific code in the driving licence.

The issuing of driving licences is also subject to the following conditions: licences for categories C and D may be issued only to drivers already entitled to drive vehicles in category B, and licences for categories B+E, C+E and D+E may be issued only to drivers already entitled to drive vehicles in categories B, C and D respectively.

The minimum age for the issuing of driving licences is as follows: 16 years for categories A1 (light motorcycles) and B1 (motor-powered tricycles and quadricycles), 18 years for categories A, B, B+E, C and C+E and 21 years for categories D and D+E. EU countries may, however, raise or lower the minimum age, within given limits, for certain categories.

EU countries must ensure that applicants for driving licences possess the knowledge and skills and exhibit the behaviour required for driving a motor vehicle. In general, the tests introduced to this effect must consist of:

  • a theory test;
  • a test of skills and behaviour.


Act Entry into force Deadline for transposition in the Member States Official Journal
Directive 2006/126/EC



OJ L 403 of 30.12.2006

Successive amendments and corrections to Directive 2006/126/EC have been incorporated in the basic text. This consolidated versionis for reference purposes only.

Related Acts

Commission Regulation (EU) No 383/2012 of 4 May 2012 laying down technical requirements with regard to driving licences which include a storage medium (microchip).

The Regulation establishes the technical rules regarding driving licences which include a microchip. All data stored on the microchip must comply with the provisions of Annex I to this Regulation. The Regulation also covers procedure for EU type-approval certificates, which are issued to the manufacturer or its representative when all relevant provisions of this Regulation are met.

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