MOTORISTS face a raft of new penalty point offences from early next year including a ban on illegal U-turns and stiff penalties for parents who refuse to strap their children into car seats.
Transport Minister Leo Varadkar plans to introduce 11 new offences, and higher penalties for 15 others including speeding, mobile phone use, non-wearing of seatbelts and failure to display an NCT certificate.
The move comes amid deep concern about the number of motorists being killed on the roads.
So far this year, 145 people have died – an increase of 18 on the same period in 2012.
The changes introduced in the Road Traffic (No 2) Bill 2013, published last night, give gardai a wide range of new sanctions to help reduce the carnage and punish the most dangerous drivers on the roads.
Some of the details were first revealed in October last year by the Irish Independent, and are set to become law by the end of the year.
They include new rules for learner drivers, who will be obliged to display an 'N' for 'novice' plate for the first two years after being awarded their full licence. They will also be put off the road if they reach six penalty points, compared with a threshold of 12 for other motorists.
They will also be obliged to undertake a certain amount of logged and recorded driving experience with a fully qualified motorist before taking their test, in addition to the mandatory 12 lessons with a qualified instructor already required.
For intoxicated drivers, gardai will be empowered to require them to undertake cognitive tests including walking in a straight line to determine their sobriety, the results of which will be admissible in evidence.
Blood samples can also be taken from unconscious or incapacitated drivers involved in serious collisions, with medical consent, with the results of the analysis revealed when the driver gives permission.
There are also changes to almost 30 penalty points offences, including failure to display a 'N' or 'L' plate attracting points, and a ban on U-turns. All three offences will incur two points, or four on conviction in court.
Mr Varadkar said the bill had been drafted in consultation with the Oireachtas Transport committee and road safety groups, and it was a "very important" measure to help reduce fatalities on the roads.
Last year, 161 people died on the roads compared with 415 in 2001. The drop was an "indication" that the public was taking road safety seriously.
"However, we cannot afford to be complacent," he said.
"Road traffic legislation needs constant improvement, and this bill will add significantly to the legislative underpinning of safety on our roads."
The increased penalties will be rolled out over 2014.