THREE unaccompanied learner drivers are involved in a fatal crash or one resulting in serious injury every month, new figures reveal.
The statistics -- compiled by the Department of Justice -- reveal for the first time the extent of serious accidents involving learner drivers who break the law by driving unaccompanied.
A total of 45 unaccompanied learner drivers were involved in fatal crashes over the past 40 months, while a further 74 were involved in collisions resulting in serious injuries in the same period.
This is the first time statistics have been compiled showing the extent of death crashes involving unaccompanied L-drivers.
The fatalities involving unaccompanied drivers have accounted for one out of every 15 deaths on the roads since January 2009. Since then, 700 people died, including drivers, passengers, cyclists, motorcyclists and pedestrians.
The discredited provisional licence was replaced with a new learner permit in 2007.
Under the new system, car drivers with a learner permit must be accompanied at all times and be under the supervision of someone with a driving licence for a car. That person must have had the driving licence for at least two years.
This removed the previous loophole, which allowed a person on a second provisional licence to drive unaccompanied.
Learner permit drivers can also be put off the road for reaching six penalty points -- half the level required for someone with a full licence.
Prosecutions against unaccompanied learner drivers have been traditionally rare, with gardai instead giving young L-drivers a "ticking off".
Gardai have now mounted a concerted crackdown on unaccompanied learner drivers as part of the new modern road safety system being spearheaded by the Road Safety Authority (RSA).
Two crackdowns in March and April resulted in almost 950 motorists being caught driving unaccompanied or without displaying L plates. Some 279 will be prosecuted in the courts, facing fines of up to €1,000 for a first offence, while the remainder were given a caution.
Justice Minister Alan Shatter said he was concerned at the number of deaths and serious injuries involving unaccompanied learners.
Official figures show there are almost 236,000 learner drivers, about 10pc of the total.
RSA spokesman Brian Farrell said that learner drivers needed to understand that they were vulnerable road users.
"These laws are there to protect this group, who are vulnerable road users by the fact that they are inexperienced drivers," said Mr Farrell.