Learner permit dodges under scrutiny to end abuse of system
Several options in pipeline as thousands swerve all-important lessons and tests
I can still remember how nervous I felt before my driving test. It was more than two decades ago but I can remember like it was yesterday.
For some people nerves before a big event can be a good thing; it sharpens the senses. But nerves can paralyse too.
The driving test is more than a rite of passage. It's essential that people start off their lives behind the wheel on a solid foundation. This includes lessons, practise and finally a test to show you have demonstrated a level of competence to be allowed drive on your own.
There are some, however, who for whatever reason, have not passed a driving test and continue to drive on a learner permit. They've been doing it for years and avoiding the test.
There are 41,316 on their fourth or subsequent learner permit. Of those 8,663 are on their tenth or successive permit.
It's difficult to say why so many are relying long-term on a permit. For some it may be nerves; they may have failed the test multiple times. Others, though, have no intention of passing the test and 'game' the system to avoid taking one. The situation cannot be allowed to continue.
For those who are nervous and maybe have had a run of bad luck when it comes to the test the RSA can help. We have set up a new website called passthetest.ie with lots of tips and advice on how to prepare for, and take, the driving test. We have videos which should demystify the process and hopefully make it a little less intimidating.
I cannot stress enough the importance of getting lessons with an approved driving instructor, especially if you learnt to drive before the introduction of mandatory lessons. Finally, practise, practise, practise - and always while accompanied by a fully qualified driver other than a novice. If you are overcome with nerves before a test we will do our best to assign a supervisor who can provide a supportive approach.
Those who deliberately roll over their permit and have no intention of taking a test need to make serious efforts to pass. It's unacceptable and has to stop.
If they are driving unaccompanied they risk having their vehicle seized by the gardaí. Since last December more than 1,600 drivers have had their vehicles seized, ended up with penalty points and a fine. And 2,311 learner drivers have received points for not displaying 'L' plates, a requirement when driving on a permit.
There are more measures in the pipeline to tackle this problem. The RSA in consultation with the Department of Transport is considering how to stop people from relying long term on a permit. These may include an increase in the cost for those who have held a number of permits without undergoing a driving test. A possible decrease in the period that the permit is valid is another option.
Also being looked at is a requirement to take mandatory lessons with an approved driving instructor or a requirement to take a driving test before another permit can be issued for a fifth or subsequent learner permit.
Whatever someone's reason for sitting long term on a learner permit, it really beggars belief why you would continuously spend money renewing a permit, applying for a test you never take and continuing to pay a high insurance premium. Passing a test could mean lower insurance costs in the order of 20pc to 30pc. It will also make you a better, safer driver.
With driving test waiting times at just above six weeks, their lowest for some time, there really is no excuse for not applying for and taking your test.