Mandatory driving lessons 'cut risk of road accidents'
LEARNER drivers taking compulsory lessons are up to 16pc less likely to crash, compared with novices under the old system.
Mandatory lessons are linked to a significant drop in fatal crashes among young learners, according to research used by the Road Safety Authority (RSA) in drafting the new rules.
A total of 243,000 Irish drivers are on learner permits.
From today, any new permit holders must take a minimum of 12 one-hour lessons with an accredited driving instructor. In addition, they must carry out up to 36 hours of 'homework' with a nominated qualified driver.
A Canadian study examined 45,822 drivers who took part in similar compulsory lessons when starting out, compared with a similar number who had not undergone a structured training programme.
The research found that the introduction of compulsory training was directly linked to a significant reduction in the crash rate of new drivers.
When tracked over a four-year period, the drivers taking mandatory lessons had a crash rate 16pc lower than those learning to drive under the old, unregulated system.
Another before-and-after study in the United States found there was an 11pc reduction in crash deaths among young drivers.
A report by the RSA evaluating the various studies said all the evidence pointed to the introduction of "a significant initial learning period" as being critical to the success of a graduated driving programme.
Those in the 17-24 age category is one of the highest-risk groups on Irish roads.
They are up to three times more likely to be killed in a collision than the rest of the population.
Research also shows that young Irish drivers are most vulnerable in the six to 12-month period immediately after getting their licence.
RSA spokesman Brian Farrell said yesterday that the international research clearly demonstrated that compulsory driver training was a key element in improving the safety of young drivers.
While the introduction of the scheme from today brings Ireland into line with many other European countries, the United Kingdom still has not brought in mandatory driving lessons for learners.
RSA chief executive Noel Brett said the programme consisted of 12 one-hour lessons linked to 12 specific 'high risk' road safety issues.
He advised learners not to underestimate the role played by the qualified drivers they selected as the supervisors for their 'homework' sessions following lessons.
"It is vital that this is a person you feel comfortable with and who demonstrates safe driving behaviour that you can learn from," he said.
"This might be a parent, uncle or sibling, but it must be someone who can make the commitment to contribute their time to helping you to become a safe and competent driver."