Sunday 4 December 2016

Irish emigrants forced to pay more than €600 for mandatory driving lessons

Published 05/08/2016 | 12:52

IRISH emigrants returning home are being forced to pay out more than €600 for mandatory driving lessons. Stock image
IRISH emigrants returning home are being forced to pay out more than €600 for mandatory driving lessons. Stock image

IRISH emigrants returning home are being forced to pay out more than €600 for mandatory driving lessons.

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Independent.ie has learned that Irish people returning home from abroad are being forced to ‘learn’ how to drive again – even though  they may have previously driven here or in the country where they emigrated to.

The situation means that people returning to live here from several countries – including the USA -must sit a learner theory test and pay out hundreds of euro for driving lessons.

Current laws here mean that people returning home from several countries cannot swap or exchange their foreign driving licence.

Instead, drivers are forced to learn how to driver a car by sitting a theory test and completing 12 lessons with an approved driving instructor before they can sit their test.

The Department of Transport says there are three different set of circumstances regarding the exchange of driver licence.

All licences issued within the EU have “mutual recognition” and a licence from another EU country can be exchange for an Irish licence within two to three months.

Agreements exist with certain countries, including Switzerland and New Zealand, where drivers can also exchange their driving licence for an Irish one.

However, drivers coming from countries which do not have an agreement or “mutual recognition” of licences, including the USA, must pay out for driving lessons.

“A person in this situation would have to apply for an Irish licence and start here as a learner,” a spokesman for the Transport Department told the Irish Independent.

Once the driver completes the 12 lessons, they can immediately book a driving test and do not need to wait the normal six-month period.

Returning emigrants have already lashed out about paying driving lessons to ‘learn’ what they already know.

A letter by an Irish man, who returned after spending 12 years in California, sent to former Transport Minister Paschal Donohoe highlights the frustration amongst returning emigrants.

In the letter, obtained by the Irish Independent, the father-of-three informed the minister that he and his wife have been driving in California for 17 years but now must spend more than €1,200 to learn how to drive.

“As you can imagine, with three young children to raise, this is a huge inconvenience, just the time alone, and will put quite a significant financial strain on us,” wrote the man.

“The difficult part to swallow is that we must also complete a course of 12 driving lessons, the same that a first-time driver would be mandated to complete.

“We will be looking at somewhere in the region of €600 each to ‘learn’ something we’ve been doing for well over a decade.

“I’m sure it would be a huge weight lifted if the rules could be changed, or at least relaxed a little, for those of us who have been on the roads many years.”

However, the Transport Department says that mutual recognition of licences with the United States has not been possible because of the State system they operate.

“This means that there are 50 different licensing regimes involved.  Reaching agreement would therefore mean reaching 50 separate agreements,” according to a transport spokesman.

“While road traffic legislation is continuously under review, the department has no immediate plans to amend this legislation.”

The spokesman added the strict laws are for “public safety” and the department needs to have “verifiable standards for people to meet in order to drive on out roads”.

While returning Irish emigrates and holders of a foreign licence can driver here for 12 months, once that has passed drivers must apply for an Irish licence.

Meanwhile, for people moving home and already hold an Irish licence are being reminded they can renew their licence up to 10 years after it lapsed in order to avoid undergoing a driving test.

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