Instructors to decide if L-drivers ready for test
LEARNER drivers will not be allowed to sit a driving test until they have proved to a qualified instructor that they are safe behind the wheel.
The number of compulsory lessons people will have to take under changes to the learner permit system will not be set out in law, Transport Minister Noel Dempsey said yesterday.
Only drivers who proved they were competent behind the wheel, whether after "three or 100" hours of tuition, would be allowed to take the test, he said.
The minister was speaking after it emerged that tough new rules to be introduced before the end of the year will force learner drivers to undertake compulsory training.
It also includes a requirement that all learners take a set number of lessons from a qualified instructor, and keep a logbook of hours spent practising. Only those who pass an approved syllabus may sit a test.
The changes, which were revealed in yesterday's Irish Independent, led to a 15-fold increase in the number of people seeking information from the Road Safety Authority (RSA), which will be charged with introducing the new system.
A spokesman said 15,000 people had accessed its website yesterday. The changes do not affect existing drivers, only those who get a learner permit after the new rules are introduced.
The RSA had suggested that up to 20 hours of compulsory lessons could be necessary. At a cost of €35 an hour, learner drivers could have to pay €700 before sitting their test.
But Mr Dempsey said instructors should decide if a learner driver was ready for the test. "I'll take advice from the RSA (on the number of hours)," he said.
"If a driver is good enough to achieve the competencies they want to measure in three lessons, then three lessons it is. If it takes some people 100 lessons, until they're fit to go out on the road they shouldn't be let out."
Fine Gael said that while it welcomed the new system, the Government should consider making a contribution towards the cost of lessons for lower-income families.