Tuesday 17 September 2019

Gardaí clamp down on driving test dodgers as over 8,000 motorists renew their learner permit at least ten times

  • Over 41,000 drivers are on at least their fourth successive learner permit
  • Of them, over 8,000 drivers are on at least their tenth successive learner permit
  • Gardaí have seized over 1,600 cars from unaccompanied learner drivers
Garda Derek Coackley inspecting the licence of driver Mark Lavery watched on by Moyagh Murdock, RSA CEO and Garda Chief Superintendent Paul Cleary.
Photo: Robbie Reynolds
Garda Derek Coackley inspecting the licence of driver Mark Lavery watched on by Moyagh Murdock, RSA CEO and Garda Chief Superintendent Paul Cleary. Photo: Robbie Reynolds

Mícheál Ó Scannáil

Gardaí are set to increase enforcement of learner driver laws as tens of thousands appear to be avoiding taking the full test, instead renewing their learner permits repeatedly.

According to the gardaí and the Road Safety Authority (RSA), 41,316 drivers have renewed their learner permit for at least the fourth time, with 8,663 of them renewing it ten times or more.

The current waiting time for a driving test nationally is around just six weeks and 83 new driving testers have been recruited since the beginning of 2018 in an effort to convince those previously unwilling to take the test to apply.

Moyagh Murdock, CEO of the RSA, told Independent.ie that many of the 41,000 drivers on their fourth or subsequent learner permit have not even attempted to take a driving test.

"The reason we have this campaign today is because we are unhappy with the level of people coming forward for the test," she said.

"We see every year on average ten learner drivers a year involved in fatal accidents and we want to ensure that the roads are safer places for everyone including the learner drivers themselves.

"These are not young drivers. These are people in their 30s, 40s, 50s that have been driving for years on their learner permit. We have actually got over 8,000 drivers out there on their tenth learner permit or more. Many of these people haven't even taken a driving test, they haven't even tried to pass one.

"We want to make sure that the message is out there loud and clear that the law is there. It is illegal to drive unaccompanied and if you do, you will be detected by the guards and you will face the consequences."

Gardaí have already increased the enforcement of learner driver laws and will be further clamping down. Since new laws were introduced at the beginning of 2018, over 1,600 cars have been seized from unaccompanied drivers.

In the presence of Garda Chief Superintendent Paul Cleary and Ms Murdock, gardaí set up a checkpoint on the Con Colbert Road, Dublin, to begin the increased enforcing of the learner drivers laws.

Not only can learner drivers be penalised for driving without a fully-licenced driver of over two years in their company, but gardaí are also clamping down on drivers on a learner permit not displaying L plates on both the front and rear of their vechicle.

According to Supt Paul Cleary, in a lot of cases learner drivers are removing their plates to avoid detection. Some 2,311 drivers have been detected not displaying L plates already this year and Mr Cleary said that drivers could face double penalisation for not displaying their plates and driving unnaccompanied.

"It's all about road safety, and that safety is for all road users," he told Independent.ie.

"The message of today is that we are out there enforcing. We have increased activity in this area. We have learned that there are some drivers on learners permits that are removing their L plates to avoid detection but we have increased enforcement in this area.

"To date this year we have issued fixed charge notices to over 2,300 learner permit drivers who have removed their L plates. There are sanctions there which include fines, penalty points and prosecutions so we would be urging all drivers who are driving on a learner permit to apply for their test. It will also be beneficial to them financial because they will have a lowered insurance bill."

Mr Cleary noted that car owners can also be prosecuted for knowingly lending your vehicle to an unaccompanied learner drivers potentially receiving two penalty points and a fine of up to €2,000.

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