LEARNER drivers will still be covered by their insurance even if they crash while unaccompanied by a full licence holder.
From next Monday, all provisional licence holders will be banned from driving solo. Until now, motorists holding a first, third or subsequent provisional licence had to have a front-seat passenger with a full driving licence, but a driver on a second licence was permitted to drive unaccompanied.
Under the new law, second provisional licence holders will now also be banned from driving unaccompanied.
In yesterday's Irish Independent, it was revealed that over 335,000 drivers still hold a provisional licence, with almost 20,500 on their sixth subsequent licence.
But yesterday a spokesman for the Irish Insurance Federation (IIF) said motorists who broke the law and crashed while driving alone would still be covered. "If driving unaccompanied, the driver is guilty of a criminal offence, but they are still insured," he said.
"If you don't obey the rules of the road and drink and drive or break a red light, you're guilty of an offence but are still covered. It's the same case with driving unaccompanied. [That] has nothing really to do with insurance at this time."
However, he warned people that their individual cover might contain a clause stating that their insurance would be invalidated if they were unaccompanied. Such conditions do not generally appear in standard policies. He stressed that the third party would always be covered in a crash, regardless of the driver's fitness to be behind he wheel.
From June 30 all learner permit or provisional licence holders must be accompanied by a person who has held a full licence for two years.
If learners are caught driving unaccompanied they could face a fine of up to €2,000 and three months in prison.
"In short, under the new licence rules, and subject to a further review of the situation, if a provisional licence-holder is at fault in a crash while driving unaccompanied, claims will continue to be handled by his insurer as normal," the spokesman confirmed.