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Seventeen-year-olds in Finland may soon get driver's licenses

The government wants to make it possible for all 17-year-olds to get their license as a legal loophole has already allowed thousands to drive before their 18th birthday.

The National Police Board of Finland and the Finnish Road Safety Council have come out against the reform. Image: Silja Viitala / Yle

Seventeen-year-olds in Finland may soon be able to get behind the wheel—if their parents let them.

In Finland the driving age is 18, but 17-year-olds can apply for a special exemption to gain their license a year earlier.

A new government proposal out this month seeks to amend the Driving License Act by abolishing this loophole, instead allowing teens' parents and legal guardians to make the call.

The Finnish Communication and Transport Agency (Traficom) said the high number of exemption permit applications it has received has congested their services.

The agency estimated that a permit application currently takes months to review, with approximately 4,500 applications presently awaiting approval.

However, the National Police Board of Finland and the Finnish Road Safety Council have come out against the reform, fearing it will worsen road safety. The police board has said that under-18s should only be granted the permission to obtain driving licenses in very specific and rare circumstances.

A legislative change that came into effect in 2018 loosened the requirements to obtain an exemption permit, allowing 17-year-olds to apply for a license in order to commute independently to their hobbies or workplaces. This led to more than 14,000 exemption license applications being filed in 2019, according to Traficom.

Transport and Communications Minister Timo Harakka (SDP) said that although the 2018 amendment arguably saw the restrictions loosened too much, he said he believes under-18s should still be allowed to obtain permits.

"It would be unfair if the possibility was taken away, as we've seen how important the opportunity to commute independently is to them," Harakka said.