Why does the EU want to lower the driving age to 17? To boost Europe’s automotive industry, of course…

And viewed from that angle, at least: who knows? Maybe it’s not such a daft idea, all things considered…

But before we turn to the REAL reasons, behind this astonishingly harebrained (even by EU standards) initiative by the European Commission… let’s a take a brief look at the OFFICIAL justification, shall we?

‘Road safety’. Yes, folks, you read that right! Believe it or not, the European Commission recently proposed (and the Council of Minister subsequently approved) a whole new directive – to be applied across all 27 member states – to ‘lower the legal driving age to 17’… and the only excuse we were given, to justify this madness, was that it would somehow ‘increase safety on European roads’.

I mean, honestly. It almost makes ‘the dog ate my homework’ look like a perfectly plausible scenario, doesn’t it? Because let’s face it: dogs HAVE occasionally been known to ingest all sorts of highly unlikely things, from time to time – including, in at least one well-documented case, an entire sofa (cushions, and all) – but… ‘17-year-old-drivers, making roads safer to drive on’? Where, in the entire known Universe, has something like THAT ever been known to happen?

The short answer, it seems, is: ‘absolutely nowhere’. Because while Malta is mercifully not among their number (or not yet, anyway); there ARE a few countries, dotted around the world, which were unwise enough to issue driving licences to teenagers as young as 16-17… and, who would have ever guessed? The results have not exactly been very ‘encouraging’, you know.

In the USA, for instance, the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety reports that “drivers between the ages of 16 and 17 are more likely to be involved in car accidents than drivers from any other age group. Additionally, teen drivers cause more injuries and deaths than other drivers, including injuries to themselves.”

And according to the CDC (Centre for Disease Control and Prevention), “the risk of motor vehicle crashes is higher among teens aged 16–19 than among any other age group. Teen drivers in this age group have a fatal crash rate almost three times as high as drivers ages 20 and older per mile driven…”

But tell you what: let’s not waste too much time, over-analysing an ‘official’ justification that we all know is really just a load of bullshit, anyway.

The reality, of course, is that neither the European Commission, nor the Council of Ministers, is daft enough to genuinely BELIEVE that this directive will actually ‘work’, in practice… for the same reason that nobody else does, either.

And that, by the way, includes pretty much all Europe’s own traffic safety associations: which this week wrote an open letter, urging EU governments “to reject moves to lower the age at which young people can begin training to drive a heavy-duty vehicle, arguing it could lead to higher numbers of serious road accidents…”

Clearly, then, this proposal cannot possibly have been intended to ‘increase road safety’, as claimed… and something tells me we won’t have to look very far, to discover the real reasons behind it.

This (like the previous quote) is from an article on Euractiv.com (December 1 2023): “Industry says that lowering the recommended age is vital to stemming Europe’s severe shortage of truck drivers, rejecting claims that putting teenagers behind the wheel of trucks and buses is unsafe. […] International Road Transport Union data suggests that the continent faced a shortage of 600,000 drivers in 2022, with the figure expected to rise to almost 2 million by 2026.”

Aha! That’s a whole different story, isn’t it? (And a somewhat more PLAUSIBLE one, at that!)

But just in case the naked truth still remains a little ‘clouded’ (possibly, due to a sudden increase in vehicular fumes, all over Europe)… allow me to spell it out to you, in a few simple words.

What REALLY happened, it seems, is that various sectors of Europe’s beleaguered automotive industry have done a little good-old-fashioned ‘lobbying’, behind our backs, with both the European Commission and the Council of Ministers…

… you know: the same sort of ‘lobbying’ that – last I looked – the EU was supposed to have REGULATED, since Qatargate (Just saying, that’s all)…

… for the same old, indefensible reasons that ALL lobbyists exert pressure on international legislative entities (which also happens to be the same reason why they were supposed to have been regulated, in the first place: because they secure unfair advantages, for themselves...]

In the case of Europe’s truck-drivers lobby, the intention was very clearly to address the aforementioned ‘shortage of 600,000 drivers’… by simply ‘allowing teenagers to drive trucks, across the EU’ (and to hell with any of the dire consequences, predicted by all European road-safety associations…)

And in the case of Europe’s automotive manufacturing industries – including, but not limited to, the most beleaguered of the lot: Germany’s crisis-ridden Volkswagen – the intention emerges just as clearly from this other news article… this time, from CNN (August 27):

“Industrial production in Europe’s biggest economy fell 1.5% in June compared with May, driven by a 3.5% drop in Germany’s vast automotive sector. The decline in German industrial output, much steeper than forecast by economists, raises the risk that the manufacturing heavyweight will contract again later this year, potentially falling back into recession.

“[…] The German car industry, which accounts for around 5% of the economy, is struggling to recover from the blow dealt by the pandemic and snarled supply chains…”

“[…] Volkswagen, Europe’s largest carmaker, has been grappling with sluggish sales in China — its single biggest market — losing out to local competitors. The company reported a 14.5% drop in its deliveries in China in the first quarter. It saw a recovery in April and May but deliveries in the first half overall were still 1.2% down on the same period in 2022…”

So… erm… what do you reckon is REALLY the likeliest explanation, for the (by a huge coincidence, ‘German-led’) European Commission to suddenly come out with such an extraordinarily daft idea, as ‘to lower the driving age to 17’?

Is it: a) ‘to increase safety-levels on European roads’?

Or; b) to give Germany’s ailing automotive industry a little ‘shot-in-the-arm’… by compensating for the loss of its lucrative Chinese market, through the instant creation a whole new domestic one, numbering anywhere up to – wait for it – 8,000,000 potential consumers!!! (Because THAT, folks, is how many people actually exist, between the ages of 16 and 18, in the European Union today…)

Naturally, I’ll leave you to work out the answer for yourselves. (Even for the simple reason that, erm, it’s not exactly ‘V-2 rocket science’, you know…).

By the same token, however: ‘8,000,000’ is also the maximum number, to which the quantity of new cars on European roads might conceivably grow… if European countries are daft enough to actually ACCEPT this insane proposal (instead of rejecting it out of hand: like Malta is trying – but, alas, so far failing – to do).

And just to put that figure into a little perspective: in Malta, the same statistic would work out at (very approximately) 5,000… a figure I reached by dividing the total number of Maltese citizens in the 15-19 bracket (20,000), by four.

OK, I’ll admit it’s somewhat imprecise - mainly because the NSO doesn’t provide more detailed breakdowns, than that - and in any case, it only represents the very maximum of 17-years-olds who may exist in Malta, today (as opposed to how many of them that will actually ‘buy a car’, as a result of this directive)…

… but it does, at least, give us a rough indication, of how many new ‘drivers’ (and therefore, ‘cars’) might be instantly added to Malta’s already over-burdened road network, if this proposal were to go through.

And when you also consider that – just a few weeks ago – the same road network managed to get itself hopelessly ‘clogged up’: just because a single event (the Sigma conference) unleashed an estimated 2,500 taxis onto our streets, all at during the same morning rush-hour…

… I shudder to even imagine what the traffic jams would be like, if Malta’s eligible driving population were to suddenly explode by roughly the same number (or possibly much more, up to a maximum of around 5,000) … only not just ‘on a single day’, this time; but…


Because THAT, when all is said and done, is the only real effect this astonishingly harebrained proposal will ever achieve, in practice. Far from ‘increasing European road safety levels’, it will only ever increase the number of cars (and therefore, congestion; pollution; accidents; injuries; deaths; etc., etc.) on European roads.

(And to add insult to injury: all this, at a time when the EU is supposedly committed to doing the very opposite… by ‘phasing out the combustion engine by 2050’, remember?)

Then again, however – and I only mention this, to end on a slightly more ‘hopeful’ note – there is a small silver lining, to all this insanity.

For if we really were short-sighted enough to add another 5,000 more cars to Malta’s roads (over and above the 16,000 new ones we already import each year, as things stand today)… oh, our roads will certainly become ‘safer’, all right!

Not, of course, because of any ‘improvement’ in the maturity-levels of Maltese drivers… but simply because it would become physically impossible, to ever actually ‘drive on Malta’s roads’, at all!

And viewed from that angle, at least: who knows? Maybe it’s not such a daft idea, all things considered…