Sunday 25 February 2018

Penalty points to be replaced by 'retraining' plan

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Mark O'Regan

Mark O'Regan

Drivers caught breaking speed limits for the first time may be ordered to undertake an intensive 'training course' instead of receiving penalty points, the Sunday Independent has learned.

Under radical proposals, speeding motorists would undergo a specially designed 'classroom style' education programme as an alternative to a speeding fine and points on their licence.

The course would aim to help drivers understand why people drive above the speed limit and the potential consequences of speeding.

Developed by psychologists, each course typically lasts four hours, aiming to educate rather than prosecute drivers, in an attempt to improve road safety.

The idea behind the initiative is the belief that if fundamental behaviour can be changed, it is more likely to prevent re-offending - rather than the current practice of imposing a fine plus penalty points.

Motorists would have to pay for their own instruction programme. Currently, those who are clocked driving over the speed limit are fined €80 and given three points.

Those significantly over the limit can be brought to court.

However, it has now emerged the Road Safety Authority (RSA) is in discussion with experts in the UK, where offenders who exceed the speed limit by 15-20km/h can waive a fine and the imposition of points, by opting to take an education course instead.

Drivers who have been involved in an 'at fault' collision can also opt for the lessons.

It means that police do not record the speeding offence as a conviction.

The scheme comprises of a morning classroom session, followed by an 'on-road' driving awareness session, with a fully qualified instructor.

Workbook exercises must also be completed, with feedback from an instructor.

Under the British system, the court decides who has the option of driver school.

Road safety experts here say the system has proved an important deterrent in other jurisdictions.

Conor Faughnan, director of consumer affairs at the AA, welcomed the development, saying the initiative could prove a success in this country.

"There's very good evidence that they can really help encourage motorists to behave well," he said.

"We would suggest that it might be something that a judge could direct.

"I've read testimonials from drivers and they have found them eye-opening.

"I agree with the RSA that it must be carefully evaluated scientifically. It wouldn't be suitable for every traffic offence, but there are probably quite a few offence types where something like this would be very useful."

In a statement, our Department of Transport said the Road Safety Authority (RSA) is currently in "consultation" with the relevant UK-based experts.

The RSA confirmed such courses would be considered as part of "alternative sentencing measures" in future road safety projects.

Sunday Independent

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