MOTORISTS now face fines of up to €20,000 and 10 years in jail if they flee the scene of a serious accident which leaves someone injured or dead.
Transport Minister Leo Varadkar has increased the maximum fines five-fold and introduced lengthy jail terms for drivers who fail to stop and aid someone involved in a collision.
As it stands, a motorist involved in a hit and run where someone is injured faces a maximum fine of €2,000 and/or six months imprisonment.
But the Road Traffic No 2 Act 2013 says a driver who flees the scene of an accident "with intent to escape", and "knowing that injury has been caused", will face a fine of €10,000 and up to seven years in jail. Where a death occurs, the penalties rise to €20,000 and/or 10 years in jail.
Motorists already face a fine of up to €1,000 and three months in jail if they flee an accident where damage is caused but no one is injured.
The tough new rules are contained in a new Road Traffic Act to be enacted later this year and were proposed by Fianna Fail TD Timmy Dooley.
Other measures include higher penalty points for motorists using a mobile phone, and fines of up to €2,500 for 'clocking' a vehicle.
New roadside impairment tests for drug driving, higher penalty points for speeding, mobile phone use and not wearing seatbelts as well as a provision allowing unconscious drivers to be tested are also included.
Learner drivers will have to display an 'N' for 'novice' plate for two years after passing their test, and will be put off the road if they incur seven penalty points – just over half the limit for other drivers.
Transport Minister Leo Varadkar said the act "strengthened and extended" the law in key areas. The law on hit-and-run incidents has been tightened, and we have brought in a new offence of tampering with an odometer, commonly known as 'clocking' a vehicle", he said.
"Gardai will be able to conduct roadside impairment tests for drug driving on motorists.
"Once again I want to appeal to motorists to drive safely at all times. Road deaths rose last year, and although 10 fewer people have died so far this year, we can never let up on road safety."
Changes to the penalty points system include speeding, mobile phone use and the non-wearing of seatbelts which will attract three points on payment of fixed charge and five on conviction. They were previously two points and four.