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Brussels, 22nd March 2002

Motor insurance: Commission calls on Finland to stop excluding car passengers from cover when a driver is under influence of alcohol

The European Commission has decided to ask Finland to change its legislation according to which, when the driver of a vehicle is intoxicated, insurance cover for injuries caused to passengers in the vehicle concerned might be excluded. The Commission considers that Finnish legislation allowing such a reduction of cover contravenes the Second Motor Insurance Directive (84/5/EEC). The Commission's request takes the form of a 'reasoned opinion', the second stage in the infringement procedure under Article 226 of the EC Treaty. If Finland fails to respond satisfactorily within two months of receiving the reasoned opinion, the Commission may decide to bring the matter before the Court of Justice.

The main purpose of the Motor Insurance Directives is to facilitate the free movement of goods and persons within the European Union and to safeguard the interests of persons who may be the victims of accidents caused by motor vehicles.

Finnish legislation(1) provides for the driver's injuries to be excluded from insurance cover should an accident occur when the driver is under the influence of alcohol and/or other intoxicating substances. This exclusion applies also to a passenger who knows that travelling in a vehicle under the prevailing conditions would entail a considerable safety risk.

The Commission considers that this exclusion of passengers' injuries is contrary to Article 2 of the second Motor Insurance Directive, which allows exclusions only in the few specific circumstances provided for in the Directive. Those circumstances do not include the exclusion from cover of passengers' if the driver is intoxicated. This approach has been confirmed by the Court judgement of 28 March 1996 in case C-129/94, Ruiz Bernáldez. The emphasis must be on protecting the third party who is a victim of the accident, rather than on his/her ability to assess properly whether or not the driver is too intoxicated to drive.

The Finnish authorities have informed the Commission that they intend to draft regulations in order to meet the Commission's concerns. However, no information has been provided regarding the content of these regulations or when they will enter into force. Under these conditions, the Commission has decided to go ahead with these proceedings in order to ensure full conformity of Finnish law on motor insurance with European Union law in this area.

Details of all infringement procedures in progress against all Member States are available on the Europa site at:

(1) See the third paragraph of Section 7 of the Finnish Traffic Insurance Act No. 279, of 26th June 1959, as amended by the Act No. 656 of 1st September 1994.

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