Careless driver goes free after behaviour course
A YOUNG man facing a careless driving charge made legal history when he had the case against him struck out because he had successfully completed a driver behaviour course.
In what is the first case of its kind before the courts here, David Baxter (23) spoke at length in front of a judge about how the course had changed his attitude to driving.
He told Judge Paul Kelly at Letterkenny District Court how he had spent 12 hours on the course over four Saturdays learning about the impact of road collisions.
Judge Kelly pointed out that five people had died on Irish roads over the weekend.
"The deaths of those children in Galway were just awful," said Baxter, from Carrick, Trentnagh, Kilmacrennan.
"I learned that if there is an old woman driving slowly in front of you that she has somewhere to get to too and that you shouldn't tailgate or flash your lights. If she was walking on a footpath in front of you then you wouldn't do that," said Baxter.
He had admitted careless driving in Ballybofey on August 2, 2011. His car had crossed a road and hit another vehicle. Neither he nor the other driver were badly hurt.
He said he wasn't sure what had happened because he couldn't remember anything after he had left Virginia in Co Cavan two hours earlier, but believed he had fallen asleep.
Inspector Michael Harrison, head of the Garda Traffic Corps in Co Donegal, told Judge Kelly that he had attended the final day of the course last Saturday.
"He (Baxter) and the others did engage very positively with the course," said Insp Harrison.
The judge asked Baxter if he had not learned about driver behaviour when learning to drive and taking his driving test.
"Actually, someone on the course suggested that it should be part of the driving test," he answered.
He handed the judge a certificate showing he had passed the course, run out of a community centre in Letterkenny.
"It will make me much more careful on the roads," added Baxter.
Judge Kelly warned Baxter not to appear in front of him again on motoring offences and told him: "You seem to have engaged in this process and I will strike out the case, and the best of luck to you."
Speaking after the case, Insp Harrison told the Irish Independent he believed the scheme -- which will be formally launched next month -- can help gardai reduce car crime among young people.
"This is the first case of its kind in the State and it is something we have introduced with the consent of Judge Kelly to start an education process for young motorists," he said.
"In order to change driver behaviour, courses like this will hopefully help to do that. In some similar cases in the past a young motorist may have been given a community service order, sweeping the streets or other punishment, whereas this addresses the specific driver behaviour."