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Tuesday 28 March 2017

L-drivers get 'homework' to teach them road safety

Treacy Hogan

LEARNER drivers will have to do regular on-road "homework" while being supervised in the car by their parents.

They will also have to spend a set period of time driving in the darkness hours, the Irish Independent has learned. This is the high-risk period for fatal crashes involving young male drivers, sometimes with multiple casualties.

The parent will fill in and sign a log book swearing the learner has completed each stage of the training on-road "homework".

The log book will then be brought to the learner driver's officially registered instructor, who will counter-sign it.

Under radical new proposals being unveiled today by the Road Safety Authority (RSA), learner drivers will not be able to take their driving test until they complete a set number of lessons and a set syllabus -- to be known as the Graduated Driver Licensing (GDL) system.

It means that parents will no longer simply be able to put their children on their car insurance as named drivers and hand over the keys to them.

Learner drivers will still be able to take to the road if they are accompanied by a motorist who is qualified for at least two years. But they will also be required by law to designate a qualified driver as a "driving supervisor" or mentor, who will legally undertake to accompany the learner each time they have to carry out their "homework".

The supervisor will then certify that they have fully completed the syllabus.

It will no longer be possible to get a full driving licence unless the learner has fully completed the log book that has been signed by both the driving instructor and the supervising adult.

If a parent is not available, the learner can alternatively nominate another suitably qualified driver, such as an aunt, an uncle or a neighbour.

The move, a key plank in the Government's Road Safety Strategy, will bring Ireland into line with most other EU countries which do not allow learner drivers to take the driving test until they have undergone rigorous training.

Fraud

While some novice drivers may try to get around the new system by nominating a person who may sign the log book in the absence of any supervision, it is understood that the threat of a fraud prosecution will act as a significant deterrent.

Under the new system, misrepresentation of the learner's log book will be a fraudulent offence punishable by hefty fines and possibly jail.

The changes will only affect new learner-permit holders. Anyone who holds a licence now will not be affected.

The proposals are also expected to include a new restricted driving plate, known as an R-plate, when a person has completed the first phase of their L-plate training. They can then apply to get their full unrestricted licence following a further training period.

The changes come amid mounting concerns over the number of young male drivers aged 17-24 who are involved in fatal crashes in the early hours of the morning, particularly at weekends.

Learners caught clocking up penalty points for a range of offences including speeding, not wearing a seat belt or overtaking dangerously, also face the prospect of having speed limiting devices placed on their cars under new powers being given to judges.

Learner drivers will also be put off the road if they are caught with 20ml of alcohol in their system, effectively a zero-alcohol limit.

The RSA has ruled out the imposition of a night-time curfew on learner drivers and a ban on carrying unqualified drivers as passengers.

Irish Independent

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