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Six points to put new drivers off the road

NEWLY qualified drivers will be put off the road if they clock up six penalty points in the first two years after they pass their test.

Motorists will also have to display 'R' -- for 'restricted' -- plates for two years after getting their licence and be subject to a lower drink-driving limit, the Irish Independent has learnt.

The measures will be contained in new legislation expected to be brought to Government in the coming weeks.

The new rules are designed to improve driving standards among learner drivers. Statistics show that inexperienced drivers, particularly men aged 17 to 24, are most at risk of dying on the roads.

Transport Minister Leo Varadkar will seek cabinet approval in the coming weeks for the life-saving measures. He is also expected to announce an extension of the penalty points system soon.

"The bill is a priority for the minister and he expects it to be submitted to the Government in a matter of weeks," a source said.

The measures were proposed by the Road Safety Authority (RSA) last September as part of sweeping changes to the driver training programme designed to improve standards.

The 80,000 motorists who pass their test every year will:

  • Have to display an 'R' (restricted) plate for two years after they pass the test.
  • Be subject to a lower drink-driving limit of 20mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood, which comes into force from September.
  • Be banned from driving for six months if they get six penalty points. This rule will also apply to learners and those on 'R' plates. Normally, a qualified driver receives an automatic disqualification if they accrue 12 penalty points.

The Department of Transport has also confirmed that more penalty point offences will be rolled out in the coming weeks.

Some 69 offences are provided for in law, but just 42 are in place. Among the offences yet to be made law include driving without a licence, not wearing a safety belt and using a vehicle without adequate brakes.


"Proposals are being finalised for the rollout of more of the agreed penalty point offences," a government spokesman said.

"Regulations will be required to give effect to the additional offences and these are likely to be considered formally in the coming weeks."

Despite the number of road deaths falling year on year, Ireland has lagged behind our EU neighbours in driver training.

Until this month, anyone holding a learner permit for six months was allowed to apply to sit a test. Once they passed, they were free to drive alone.

New rules were introduced on April 4 that oblige learner drivers to undertake at least 12 one-hour lessons with a qualified driving instructor before applying to sit their test.

The RSA also confirmed plans to introduce hazard perception testing into driver training from next year. This involves video clips being shown on a computer, and the drivers must identify the risks.

The Driver Theory Test is being updated, and will be changed later this year.

Meanwhile, a working group made up of senior officials from the RSA, Courts Service and departments of justice and transport is expected to recommend the courts be given new powers to impose restrictions on dangerous drivers who repeatedly break the law.

Among the measures being considered include forcing repeat offenders to resit the driving test and obliging them to install an 'alcolock' device on their vehicle.

This is an electronic device that requires a driver to take a breath test before the ignition of their vehicle can be switched on.

Other sanctions could include a ban on carrying passengers, a requirement to fit a speed limitation device on a vehicle and a curfew on driving.

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