L-drivers will be hit with double points in crackdown
LEARNER and newly qualified drivers are to be hit by double penalty points for five key offences in an unprecedented crackdown.
This means that if the drivers clock up just three offences, or 12 penalty points, in any three-year period they face an automatic 12-month driving ban.
They face even more draconian measures if they end up in court, including having to re-sit their driving test and other restrictions such as:
- A curfew banning them from night driving.
- A ban on carrying passengers.
- Court orders for alco-locks to be fitted to vehicles, along with speed recording and tracking devices.
Under a new 'three-strikes-and-you're-out' rule, four penalty points will be imposed instead of two for speeding, not wearing a seat belt, using a mobile phone, dangerous overtaking and breaking traffic lights.
The double points will apply to learner drivers and newly qualified motorists for a two-year period.
The newly qualified drivers will also have to display new 'L' plates on their cars, indicating that they have restricted driving licences for two years, and face the same new penalties as learners.
The unprecedented changes form part of a new licensing system aimed at cutting the number of road deaths among young, inexperienced drivers, particularly males aged 17-24.
There are now 286,115 drivers holding learner permits. However, the new measures will only affect those taking out new permits.
The new penalty points regime, although approved by Transport Minister Noel Dempsey, is not expected until next year at the earliest, although legislation to give effect to the change is being drafted.
The amount of overtime available to the Garda Traffic Corps has been reduced, which is bound to hamper enforcement of the changes. However, a privately operated speed-camera operation will take to the nation's roads in October.
The Graduated Driver Licensing (GDL) system will include a requirement that all learners take a set number of lessons from a qualified driving instructor. The changes will also oblige learners to keep a log book noting hours spent practising.
Only motorists who pass an approved syllabus will be allowed to sit a test.
This comes after a series of devastating crashes involving young drivers in recent weeks.
The modernisation of driver training and licensing is a key foundation stone of the Government's current road safety strategy.
Transport Minister Noel Dempsey said what he and the Road Safety Authority (RSA) were trying to do was to make sure that when young people get cars, both they and other road users are safe.
Mr Dempsey said that some horrific incidents had highlighted the need for increased vigilance.
He said a young person between 17 and 24 getting into a car was five times more likely to die than an older person.
RSA chief executive Noel Brett said it was vital that drivers were formally trained to drive safely for life rather than just able to pass a test.
He said that driver inexperience was a major risk factor in collisions causing death and injury on our roads.
"The facts are that young and inexperienced drivers are more likely to kill or be killed on Irish roads," said the road safety chief.
Fine Gael road safety spokesman Shane McEntee TD warned that the new measures would not work unless they were enforced by gardai.
"Some young teenagers who are only 17 and have licences are out on the roads late at night and driving recklessly," he said.
Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport president Paul Mallee called for the early implementation of the nine new measures.
Mr Mallee said it was appropriate that the measures were announced "following a summer of high-profile and tragic road accidents that caused the deaths of a number of young people ".