ROAD safety chiefs have cracked down on a scam involving motorists with penalty points being able to get 'clean' new licences because of inadequate controls.
The drivers claimed they had lost their licences and applied for new ones – but slightly changed the spelling of their name, or put in a middle initial or name. They were then issued with a new old-style paper licence by the relevant local authority.
The licence was then registered on the National Vehicle and Driver File (NVDF) held by the Department of Transport, minus the penalty points, which were not transferred to the new document.
This meant that the motorists were able to effectively lose the points with their new licence.
Other scams involved drivers holding both a foreign and an Irish driving licence presenting the foreign one to avoid incurring penalty points or a disqualification on their Irish licence.
This is believed to have been a widespread practice prior to a new system being introduced.
And a third issue which has alarmed road safety chiefs is the fraud whereby drivers doctored paper licences by changing names or photographs.
Concerns about fraud and penalty point scams were key to the Government recently introducing the new credit card-style plastic driving licence which is being centrally administered by the Road Safety Authority (RSA).
Responsibility for driver licensing was recently transferred from 34 local authorities to the RSA, and the plastic card licence was rolled out in January.
All driver details are held in a central database and can now be easily cross-checked, unlike the situation in the past.
Transport Minister Leo Varadkar said the new system would ensure that multiple licences could not be issued to the same individual.
A Department of Transport source said the department had been made aware by gardai of some cases where drivers with penalty points had obtained such licences.
"It could involve a slightly different spelling of the name or a middle initial or name," the source said.
However, the scale of the scam is not known.
According to the source, the new centralised driving licence service will stop this from happening in future.
Instead of drivers applying to individual local authorities, all applications for licences will be handled by the RSA and posted on the NVDF, held by the Department of Transport.
Similarities to existing names or slight alterations will also be red-flagged.
Because motorists can hold a driving licence for a period of 10 years, it will take a decade for the old paper licence to be completely phased out nationwide.