Finnish kids won’t be driving any time soon. Plans for speed-limited cars for children as young as 15 are put on hold after an intervention from the European Commission.
Cars for kids: explained
The proposals were put forward last year. They would allow cars that were no heavier than 1,500kg and limited to 37mph to be driven by 15 year olds with an AM (moped and light quad) licence. It would allow children aged 14 to take their theory test one month before their birthday. The rules would also have allowed passenger cars to get an agricultural tractor classification when fitted with a speed limiter.
This idea was met with strong support from car manufacturers. Volkswagen has highlighted the suitability of cars in its range for the project, with emphasis on the T-Roc small SUV.
European Commission against ‘cars for kids’
The Commission has warned that the idea does not comply with European rules on vehicle licencing. It cited serious safety concerns, saying children, pedestrians, cyclists and other vulnerable road users would be at risk.
The European Transport Safety Council (ETSC) has said that younger people are naturally impaired and susceptible to distraction. It also warns against the divide, between those families that can and cannot afford to drive at that age.
The overall point is that it’s not just the immediate effects; it’s the long-term knock-on, and how the policy would change the roads for other drivers.
“The assumption is that you can best protect children by putting them inside a car,” said Antonio Avenoso, executive director of ETSC.
“But we know that young, particularly male, drivers present a high risk while driving. When you put a young teenager behind the wheel of a regular car at speeds of up to 37mph, you are exposing other road users to greater risk, including other children.
“As the numbers of youngsters driving increase, parents may also take the view that the roads are no longer safe for their children to walk or cycle. The risk is that even more end up driving. Though of course only wealthier families will be able to consider the possibility of buying a specially modified car – creating the potential for a ‘safety divide’. We sincerely hope the Finnish government will reconsider this proposal, taking into account the potential for unintended consequences.”