L-drivers face tougher training to get licence
Lessons will be compulsory before taking test
SWEEPING changes on how young motorists are taught to drive will be introduced before the end of the summer in an attempt to cut the carnage on our roads.
Tough new rules will force learner drivers to undertake compulsory training before applying to sit their driving test.
The new process could cost them up to €700, the Irish Independent has learned.
The Road Safety Authority (RSA) last night said details of a Graduated Driver Licensing (GDL) system would be announced within weeks. It will include a requirement that all learners take a set number of lessons from a qualified driving instructor.
The changes will also oblige a learner to keep a logbook detailing the hours spent practising. Only motorists who pass an approved syllabus will be allowed to sit a test.
The move comes after last week's horrific road accident in Co Donegal in which eight people died -- the worst single collision in the history of the State.
Eight young men were travelling in a Volkswagen Passat when it collided with a Toyota Corolla. Seven passengers were killed and the driver remains in hospital. The driver of the Corolla, a 66-year-old man, also died. Gardai are still probing the cause of the crash.
But statistics show that inexperienced drivers, particularly men aged 17 to 24, are most at risk of dying on the roads.
Despite the number of road deaths falling to a record low, Ireland is one of the only countries in the EU that does not have a formal programme on how people are taught to drive.
The current system allows anyone who has held a learner permit for six months to apply for a test. During that period they must be accompanied by a qualified driver, but once they pass they are free to drive alone.
The changes will only affect new learner permit holders. Anyone who holds a licence now will not be affected.
"This system is in place in the UK, Germany, Northern Ireland and France. There's very few places that don't have it. It's very similar to getting a pilot's licence, you have to do your hours," RSA chief executive Noel Brett said last night.
"We have done the syllabus and are working on the regulations needed. It will include a number of hours of training, and the syllabus will also cover the responsibilities of drivers.
"The first step will be to get the permit, then engage with an approved instructor and cover the syllabus. Drivers will clock up practice hours and have a logbook signed by the accompanying driver."
However, some aspects of GDL systems used in other countries will not be introduced. A curfew on learner drivers and a ban on carrying passengers were "not needed" here, he said.
Last year, the RSA issued a public consultation document setting out a range of options for a GDL system.
It said: "There is evidence that the best approach to learning to drive is a mix of compulsory lessons and supervised practice. Compulsory lessons would involve learners taking structured lessons set out in a programme specially designed to meet the needs of learners.
"The number of lessons would depend on the ability of the learner working through the programme but would be of the order of 20 hours."
Driving lessons cost €35 per hour -- meaning the total for 20 hours would be about €700.
The RSA would not confirm how many hours of training would be required when the plan was formally rolled out.
The changes are awaiting final sign-off from the Department of Transport and will be announced before the end of the summer.