Tuesday 16 July 2019

Learner drivers, the new 'Clancy amendment' and cost of insurance

It was, and still is, the law that learners be accompanied by a qualified driver . . . but the penalties have changed

Learner driver
Learner driver

RSA Expert

There is an online campaign to the effect that the law on unaccompanied learner drivers coupled with the current 'Crashed Lives Campaign' stigmatises the learner driver.

It is claimed the campaign and the change in the law will increase insurance premiums for learner drivers.

The law has not changed.

It was, and is, a legal requirement the learner driver must be accompanied by a fully-qualified driver.

The penalties have changed.

And the change was required to address the underlying problem of the inexperienced learner driving without supervision.

Has the change in the penalty caused, or will it cause, an increase in the cost of car insurance?

Conor Faughnan of the AA, a leading provider of insurance, is clear: "There is simply no evidence in the industry to suggest the 'Clancy amendment' will push up insurance costs.

"In fact it won't."

To be clear: the learner driver is an unlicensed driver.

The learner holds a permit not a licence.

The permit sets out the basis upon which the learner is allowed to drive.

A learner driver, when unaccompanied, breaks the terms and conditions of that permit.

In addition the learner driver, when he or she drives unaccompanied, may be in breach of the terms and conditions of a motor policy, the contract with the insurance company.

By driving unaccompanied it is possible you have, or will have, misled an insurer.

The contract of insurance is unequivocal: you must adhere to the law.

Therefore you must at all times be accompanied and supervised.

The fundamental requirement has at all times been that the holder of a learner permit only drives when accompanied by a fully-licensed and qualified driver (other than a novice driver).

The 'Clancy amendment' has not altered, changed or amended the status of a holder of a Learner Permit.

The law in respect of the unaccompanied driver was, and is, intended to protect all users of the road.

It does so by ensuring that no-one other than a qualified driver is behind the wheel of a car when travelling alone.

It is arguable that by driving alone the inexperienced driver is, in addition to being open to a risk of criminal prosecution in the event of an incident, at risk of being held to account in a civil action. And where the owner of the car is another person that risk will extend to the owner.

Both the driver and the owner could, in insurance terms, pay the price of an increase in the premium or in the case of a catastrophic event face the prospect of the insurer paying the claim and then seeking recovery of the money paid out from the driver, the owner and/or both.

The criminal law was, and is clear: the holder of the Learner Permit can be prosecuted for driving while unaccompanied.

The penalty for a Learner Permit holder driving unaccompanied by a qualified person is two penalty points on payment of the fixed charge of €80.

It is four penalty points on conviction and a payment of €120.

The civil law is equally clear.

Where the policyholder breaches the term of the policy, and in the event of a payout, the insurer can, under the contract of insurance, look to the policy holder, either the owner, the driver, or both to be reimbursed.

There has been no change in the law.

The change is to society.

It is not acceptable for inexperienced learner drivers to be behind the wheel without supervision.

Unaccompanied learner driving is illegal.

And it is dangerous.

A learner permit is, as mentioned, not a licence, and drivers are at risk due to their inexperience when they're learning to drive.

Once and for all we need to stamp out the entirely false notion that once someone has a learner permit they are free to drive as they wish.

Indo Motoring

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