Young Czechs may be allowed to start driving at 17, but are they in a hurry to get behind the wheel?

Under a proposed amendment to the Road Traffic Act young people in Czechia would be allowed to start driving at the age of 17 under the supervision of a parent or another experienced driver with a clean slate. While teenagers living in the country can’t wait to see it approved, urban dwellers are in no rush to get behind the wheel.

Czech roads are not the safest in Europe and the proposed new amendment has stirred plenty of controversy. Critics point to the fact that the majority of serious accidents on the road are caused by young inexperienced drivers in the first five years of active driving. Their love of speed, parties and inexperience often results in loss of life. Others counter that starting at 17 would give them more experience – a full year’s driving under the supervision of a parent or some other responsible adult who could instill better driving habits far better than a three-week driving course. So are young Czechs in a hurry to get behind the wheel?

Photo illustrative: Barbora Němcová,  Radio Prague International

According to statistics, the picture is radically different in urban environments with good infrastructure and the country where bus connections are few and far between and a car is an absolute necessity.

In the small towns and villages, most young people get a license while they are still at school so that they can start driving as soon as they are 18. They need it to get around independently –be it to visit a friend, get to a disco or see their GP. Martina is one of those who lost no time in getting a license:

“I took the driving course when I was 17 so that I could start as soon as I came of age. I got a car from my parents for my 18th birthday and have been driving ever since.”

Photo illustrative: Michaela Danelová,  Czech Radio

Matej, who lives in Prague, says he doesn’t have a license yet, simply because he doesn’t need it.

“If I were to stay in Prague I would probably not bother, but I am studying to be a Catholic priest and I will certainly need it for my work when I am sent to the regions. Priests have a parish covering as many as seven villages and I may need to visit several of them in a day – that’s simply not doable unless you have a car or motorbike. I don’t think I could manage on a bicycle.”

Kamila, who moved from Prague to a small village in the countryside with her family some time ago, also found that a car had suddenly become a necessity.

Photo: Tomáš Adamec,  Czech Radio

“We live in a small village where there is just one mixed-goods store. The buss connections are poor or almost non-existent and I need a car to get everywhere - to the pharmacy, to the doctor, to shop. Without a car I can’t pick up my daughter from school which is seven kilometers away because there is no bus going there in the early afternoon.”

Urban life gives young people more choice and although most of them plan to drive eventually, there is no rush. The head of the Czech Association of Driving Schools Aleš Hořička says that in the last 15 years the average age at which young people in the big cities get a driver’s license has moved up to between 24 and 25 years.

"In Prague, with its reliable public transport and parking problems, there is no real pressure on teenagers to start driving and unless their parents buy them a car it is also a question of whether this is an investment they want to make right then. They usually get round to it when they start work because many employers today request a driver's license.”

Photo: Lenka Žižková,  Radio Prague International

According to Michal Lehečka from the AutoMat association, the reliable and relatively cheap public transport in Prague, combined with the accessibility of various e-bikes and scooters within sharing schemes has led many young people to put off buying a car.

“We are seeing more young people walk or cycle to work. Obviously, the age profile of people who rent shared bikes or use electronic scooters is lower. But I think it's also a sign that the younger generation is starting to think a little differently about the effectiveness of getting around the city –financially and time-wise. ”

Authors: Daniela Lazarová , Eva Svobodová
run audio


  • A focus on Czechia

    Find out about life in the Czech Republic – from politics to family life.