Crackdown on learner drivers will double penalty points
LEARNER drivers face an unprecedented crackdown on dangerous behaviour later this year.
The Cabinet yesterday agreed a tough package of measures designed to further reduce the carnage on our roads.
The measures, due to come into force in the autumn, include:
•Double penalty points for learner drivers for serious offences, including speeding, not wearing seat belts and using a mobile phone
•Mandatory display of 'R' (restricted driving) plates for two years after passing the test
•Extension of mandatory roadside breath testing, with the new lower drink-drive limit of just 20mg for novices and professional drivers. This effectively means they will not be able to take even one alcoholic drink.
Transport Minister Leo Varadkar got formal approval for the measures at yesterday's Cabinet meeting.
The next step is to draw up the necessary legislation.
A new plastic credit card-type driving licence is also being introduced.
Drivers already holding the paper licence will get the new plastic versions as they renew their licences.
The measures will coincide with the introduction of lower drink-drive limits from next October, down from 80mg to 50mg for most drivers, and 20mg for learners.
The first ever US-style roadside drug-impairment tests will also be rolled out by gardai at the same time.
Laws for the L-driver clampdown are also pencilled in for October -- but previous attempts to introduce road safety measures have been beset by long delays, so it is not yet certain when the measures will take effect.
The disclosures come as a new report shows that Irish roads are now the sixth-safest in Europe and are even ahead of the US and Australia. Sweden, Britain, Malta, the Netherlands and Germany are ahead of Ireland in terms of road safety.
But since 2001, Ireland has reduced the number of people killed on the country's roads by almost 50pc.
The research by the European Transport Safety Council found that Ireland was among the best performers when it came to saving lives on rural roads, as well as those of pedestrians and motorbike users.
A total of 411 people were killed on Irish roads in 2001. By 2010, this had fallen to 212.
Only 10 other countries, out of 27 EU member states, managed to achieve or improve on this level of reduction.
Road Safety Authority chief executive Noel Brett warned yesterday that there was still a big gap between Ireland and the safest counties in Europe.
"If I could pick three areas for improvement it would be to slow down, don't use a mobile phone while driving, and wear a high-visibility jacket when out cycling, biking or walking," he said.
Mr Brett said that while Irish road users had become an example to the rest of Europe, there was still a danger of complacency.