'N for novice' plate in new learner driver laws
LEARNERS and newly qualified drivers will be put off the road if they clock up just six penalty points under tough new rules to become law next summer.
The government has decided to halve the number of points a learner driver can rack up before they are banned for six months.
The measure is also likely to be applied to offending motorists for two years after they pass their test, the Irish Independent has learned.
Newly qualified drivers will also have to display an 'N' for 'novice' plate for the two years after passing their test.
The measures are aimed at cutting the number of deaths on our roads.
They will also mean an increase in penalty points for speeding (up from two to four), mobile phone use (from two to three or four) and failing to wear a seatbelt (from two to three).
This means that learner and new drivers caught speeding and making a phonecall at the wheel face being banned for six months. Penalty points may also be introduced for drivers who fail to display L or N plates.
The move comes after the Government considered a range of options, including doubling penalty points offences for learner and new drivers, in an effort to encourage them to drive safely.
But instead of doubling the points accrued for offences, th Road Traffic Bill to be published in the coming weeks will see the total points limit halved for these motorists.
Currently, drivers must get 12 points before being banned but these new drivers will be limited to six.
So far this year, 135 people have been killed on the roads -- down eight on the same period in 2011 -- and Ireland is among the safest countries in the EU in which to drive.
But Transport Minister Leo Varadkar said the move was part of efforts to further reduce deaths and serious injuries.
"Thousands of people have died on the roads over the last few decades and Ireland is now in the top-six safest countries, which didn't happen overnight," he said.
"Our objective is to become the safest country. The new Road Safety Strategy, which is nearing completion, will have new targets on reducing deaths and a focus on reducing injuries.
"The new Road Traffic Bill will include changes to the graduated driver system and learner drivers with six penalty points will be disqualified."
It is understood that the extension of the six-point rule will also be extended to novice drivers, or those who have just passed their test, and will apply for two years after they qualify.
The bill is expected to become law by next summer after going through the Houses of the Oireachtas.
The new rules will affect more than 100,000 people who get a learner permit or pass their test every year.
In 2011, some 105,000 people received their learner permits, with 55,000 passing their test.
The new rules will only affect motorists who get a permit or pass their test after the legislation is signed into law.
Increased penalty points for mobile phone use, non-seatbelt wearing and speeding will also be part of the bill. However, points for speeding will not be increased until a national speed limit review is completed.
The numbers killed on the roads have fallen year-on-year since 2005, helped by a new training regime for learner drivers which obliges them to take mandatory lessons and pass a theory test.
There has also been an extension of the penalty points system with 43 offences now included, increased garda enforcement, roll-out of speed cameras, and reductions in the drink-driving limit.