CLARE motorists are the most likely to receive penalty points after being caught driving dangerously.
New figures show that drivers in the county have an average of 0.28 points -- double that of those in the safest county, Donegal.
And an analysis of points issued between January 2011 and November this year shows that motorists in Clare, Longford, Kildare, Wicklow, Meath and Roscommon are the most likely to be stopped by gardai.
The safest drivers are those in Donegal, followed by Monaghan, Mayo, Kerry and North Tipperary.
The figures come amid concerns about the mounting death toll on our roads.
Some 177 people have been killed so far this year, which is an increase of 25 on the same period in 2013.
Road safety bosses are increasingly concerned about the numbers being killed, which come following eight years of falling numbers.
"It is a short period in trying to analyse a trend but what is key is the figures are going up, it is a cause of concern and it should galvanise us all into action," a spokesman for the Road Safety Authority (RSA) said.
"We need to ask ourselves, both individual drivers and state agencies, what we can do to reverse those trends.
"We should be mindful of using the roads at this time of year as we don't want any further loss of life."
Figures provided by the Department of Transport show that between 2011 and November this year some 684,974 points have been issued to motorists for one of 48 offences -- including driving dangerously, not wearing a seatbelt, speeding, driving a dangerous vehicle and failing to obey traffic rules.
They also show that more than 111,000 drivers dodged points because they did not have a driving licence or failed to bring it to court when summoned to appear for offences that require a mandatory court appearance.
Such offences include using a vehicle without (NCT) test certificate; driving a vehicle before remedying a dangerous defect; driving a dangerously defective vehicle; using a vehicle without certificate of roadworthiness; striking a bridge; driving when unfit; parking in a dangerous position; breach of duties at an accident; driving without insurance and driving carelessly.
The RSA said that the vast majority of motorists who received points changed their behaviour, which was evidenced by the fact that most drivers with points had two or less.
"The licence status only applies to where you are living, and not to where the offence was committed," he said.
"You could be a driver in Clare but get points for breaking a red light in Dublin.
"Penalty points are designed as a preventative road safety measure.
"What you see is the majority of people with points have two, so it would seem to be a case that it's once bitten twice shy.
"The vast majority of people are getting the message in relation to good behaviour, and that is positive."
The figures also show that most penalty points have been issued to drivers registered in Dublin city and county, with 150,597.
The number of driving licences in the county is 668,151, meaning that the average per licence holder is 0.22.
The lowest number issued was in Leitrim with 4,574; so with a driving population of 19,963, it means the average per motorist is 0.23.
Penalty points were introduced in 2002 and are considered to have made a major impact in reducing the carnage on our roads.
However, the number issued is steadily dropping.
In 2011, the total issued was 257,564, which fell to 239,071 the following year and 188,159 up to November 2013.
There has been concerns that this is due to less garda enforcement, but the Road Safety Authority has said a number of other factors could also be at work -- including lower traffic volumes due to the recession, and improved driver behaviour.
The highest number issued in one month was in May 2011, when 28,140 points were applied to licences across the country.
The lowest number was in January this year, which fell to 11,869.
By Paul Melia