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Finland: Driver’s License Reform

(Sept. 25, 2012) <?Finland plans to inaugurate the use of a new, fixed-term driver's license as of January 19, 2013, according to a news report of September 17, 2012. In conformity with a European Union law, known as the ÅÂ?rd Driving Licence Directive," the licenses will be valid for terms of 2 to 15 years, depending on the category of the license and the age of the holder. Thus, a regular license to drive a passenger car will be valid for a 15-year period, while licenses to drive trucks and buses will have a maximum five-year limit of validity. (Finland Is to Introduce New Fixed-Term Driving Licence, HELSINGIN SANOMAT (Sept. 17, 2012).)

Finland has chosen to adopt the longest permissible periods of license validity under the Directive, which prescribes, for example, that licenses for vehicles such as passenger cars are to have an administrative validity of ten years, but that an EU Member State may choose to issue such licenses with a 15-year term of validity. To renew their licenses, drivers will not be required to take a driving test or driving lessons. (Id.; Directive 2006/126/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 20 December 2006 on Driving Licences (Recast) (Text with EEA relevance), 2006 O.J. (L 403) 18–60; Memo: The European Driving Licence: Ensuring Security, Safety and Free Movement (Mar. 27, 2006), European Commission website.)

Although the size and pink background color of the license will remain the same, certain design features will change on the new license. The layout of the information will be different, and there will be a hologram image in which the holder’s photograph and birth date alternate. The hologram, together with the elimination of a barcode that carries the license holder’s social security number, are deemed to make the new licenses safer to use than the existing ones. At this stage of the licensing reform, Finns who already hold valid licenses will reportedly not have to change them. (Finland Is to Introduce New Fixed-Term Driving Licence, supra.)