Deadline for exchanging older German driving licences extended

German interior ministers have extended a deadline for exchanging old driving licences to ease pressure on civil servants during the Covid crisis.

German driving licence
A German driving licence document. Under new EU rules, driving licence documents will have to be standardised throughout the bloc. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Ole Spata

Older drivers in Germany have been given an additional six months to organise the exchange of their paper driving licences for new digitalised versions. 

People born in the mid-1950s were supposed to be the first group to transfer their licences by January 19th – but in light of the ongoing Covid pandemic, this deadline has now been extended to July 19th.

The change was passed at a meeting of the state interior ministers on Monday under the leadership of Bavaria’s interior minister Joachim Herrmann (CSU).

It affects people born between 1953 and 1958 who still use old paper driving licenses that were issued up to December 31st, 1998 – either in West Germany or the GDR.

According to Hermann, Bavaria will immediately introduce a motion to amend the driving licence ordinance in the Bundesrat (Germany’s upper house of parliament).

Until this comes into force, the otherwise-due warning fine of €10 will be waived by the police.

READ ALSO: Brexit: New licence needed to bring vans and trailers from UK to Germany

“However, all those affected should immediately take care of the exchange in the meantime,” Herrmann said, adding that new licences could take several weeks to be issued. 

Welcoming the move, a spokesperson for the German Motorists’ Club ADAC said the extra time would bring peace of mind to car drivers.

“For the affected driving licence holders, the decision brings the certainty that they can continue to drive with the old licence for the coming months without worries and do not have to fear fines,” they said.

In extending the deadline, the federal states were responding to bottlenecks in their driving licence offices thanks to ongoing Covid crisis, the ADAC explained. 

Uniform EU licences

In order to comply with new EU regulations, around 43 million driving licences will need to be exchanged by 2033. This is set to take place in stages, with the 1953-58 age group earmarked as the first set of people who to make the switch. 

This phased process is intended to prevent bottlenecks in driving licences offices, but people can nevertheless opt to transfer their licence ahead of time. 

In future, driving licences are to be forgery-proof and uniform throughout the EU. In addition, all driving licences are to be recorded in a database to prevent misuse.

After the extended deadline, the next group to change their licences will be people born between 1959 and 1964. Assuming the deadline isn’t extended again, this group will be asked to make the switch by January 19th, 2023. 

READ ALSO: Everything that changes in Germany in 2022

The final deadline will be January 19th, 2033. 

According to the Federal Ministry of Transport, old driving licences will become invalid after the respective deadlines have expired, with drivers who fail to exchange them subject to a warning fine of €10. 

The fee for switching the licences is €25, and no further driving test is needed in order to obtain one. 

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COMPARE: Which countries in Europe have the strictest drink-drive limits?

Certain countries around Europe have stricter policies than others regarding drinking and driving and harsher punishjments for those caught exceeding legal limits. Here's what you need to know.

COMPARE: Which countries in Europe have the strictest drink-drive limits?

European countries set their own driving laws and speed limits and it’s no different when it comes to legal drink-drive limits.

While the safest thing to do of course, is to drink no alcohol at all before driving it is useful to know what the limit is in the country you are driving in whether as a tourist or as someone who frequently crosses European borders by car for work.

While some countries, such as the Czech Republic, have zero tolerance for drinking and driving, in others people are allowed to have a certain amount of alcohol in their blood while driving.

However, not only can the rules be different between countries, they are usually stricter for commercial (or bus) drivers and novice drivers as well. Besides that, the blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is extremely difficult to estimate, so the old “one beer is ok” standards no longer safely apply.

In the end, the only way to be safe is to avoid consuming alcohol before driving. Any amount will slow reflexes while giving you dangerous higher confidence. According to the UK’s National Health Service, there is no ‘safe’ drinking level.

How is blood alcohol level measured?

European countries mostly measure blood alcohol concentration (BAC), which is the amount, in grams, of alcohol in one litre of blood.

After alcohol is consumed, it will be absorbed fast from the stomach and intestine to the bloodstream. There, it is broken down by a liver-produced enzyme.

Each person will absorb alcohol at their own speed, and the enzyme will also work differently in each one.

The BAC will depend on these metabolic particularities as well as body weight, gender, how fast and how much the person drank, their age and whether or not (and how much) they have eaten, and even stress levels at the time.

In other words there are many things that may influence the alcohol concentration.

The only way to effectively measure BAC is by taking a blood test – even a breathalyser test could show different results. Still, this is the measuring unit used by many EU countries when deciding on drinking limits and penalties for drivers.

Here are the latest rules and limits.

Driving is a great way to enjoy scenic European roads. Pictured is a highway in Norway (Photo by Shai Pal on Unsplash)

Austria, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Switzerland, Greece, Netherlands, Belgium, Portugal, and Croatia

In most EU countries, the limit is just under 0.5g/l for standard drivers (stricter rules could be in place for novice or professional drivers).

This could be exceeded by a man with average weight who consumed one pint of beer (containing 4.2% alcohol) and two glasses of red wine (13% alcohol) while having dinner.

If a person is caught driving with more than 0.8g/l of blood alcohol content in Austria, they can pay fines of up to € 5,900 and to have their license taken for one year in some cases.

In France, if BAC exceeds 0.8g/l, they could end up with a 2-year jail sentence and a € 4,500 fine. In Germany, penalties start at a € 500 fine and a one-month license suspension. In Greece, drunk drivers could face up to years of imprisonment.

In Denmark, first time offenders are likely to have their licences suspended and could be required to go on self-paid alcohol and traffic courses if BAC levels are low. Italy has penalties that vary depending on whether or not the driver has caused an accident and could lead to car apprehension, fines and prison sentences.

In Spain, going over a 1.2g/l limit is a criminal offence that could lead to imprisonment sentences and hefty fines. 

Norway, Sweden, and Poland

In Norway, Sweden, and Poland, the limit for standard drivers is 0.2g/l. It could take a woman with average weight one standard drink, or one can of beer, to reach that level.

Penalties in Norway can start at a one month salary fine and a criminal record. In Poland, fines are expected if you surpass the limit, and you could also have your license revoked and receive a prison sentence.

Czech Republic, Hungary, and Slovakia

The Czech Republic, Hungary, and Slovakia have one of the strictest rules in the European Union. There is no allowed limit of alcohol in the blood for drivers.

In the Czech Republic, fines start at € 100 to € 800, and a driving ban of up to one year can be instituted for those driving with a 0.3 BAC level. However, the harshest penalties come if the BAC level surpasses 1 g/l, fines can be up to € 2,000, and drivers could be banned from driving for 10 years and imprisoned for up to three years.

This is intended to be a general guide and reference. Check the current and specific rules in the country you plan to travel to. The easiest and best way to be safe and protect yourself and others is to refrain from drinking alcohol and driving.