Thursday 20 June 2019

Please show consideration when you meet learner drivers

L plates: Learning process
L plates: Learning process

RSA Expert

Do you remember when you sat your driving test? Maybe it took more than one attempt to pass? I'll bet it brings back anxious and nervous feelings. For me sitting the test was right up there with some of the most stressful events as a young adult.

Every time I arrive at one of our test centres I can't help but feel a pang of anxiety for the candidates.

You'd think that, full licence-holding drivers, having been through this experience, would have a little more sympathy for them. But it's not always the case, according to feedback we get from candidates and their instructors.

Learning to drive can be intimidating, especially when learners meet an impatient and aggressive motorist. I've seen it first-hand around some of our test centres.

A local approved driving instructor, car branded up to clearly show that a driver is under instruction, taking a learner driver out for lessons, only to be blasted off the road by impatient drivers. Why? Because they were delayed by a cautious learner driver.

This can put not only the learner driver in danger, but other road-users too. If you are a driver and you meet a learner out practising, please give them a break.

Allow plenty of distance between the learner driver and your vehicle. Don't beep the horn if he or she is taking more time to make a manoeuvre. It only puts them under greater stress and could make the situation worse. Be patient and give them the time and space they need to learn.

Learning to drive now is a lot more demanding than when I first got behind the wheel of a car more than 20 years ago. The bar is definitely higher.

Learners now need to complete a structured package of mandatory lessons with an approved driving instructor and lots of practice with an accompanying driver, which the driver will shortly have a legal requirement to log, to become a skilled, confident and competent driver.

There are just more than 200,000 car learner permit holders learning to drive in Ireland at the moment. If you do encounter one on the roads, please be patient and considerate. Remember how nervous you were when you learned. Show a good example through your own driving and give the learner space and time.

Of course learner drivers have a responsibility to ensure they are using the roads legally. A learner permit is not a driving licence - it's only a permit that allows you to learn to drive under certain terms and conditions.

One of these conditions is the need to clearly display L-plates on the front and back of the vehicle so you are clearly identifiable as a learner driver to other road-users.

Another is being accompanied by a fully licensed driver, who has held a full licence for at least two years, any time they choose to practise their driving skills.

They are important road safety laws and they are there for a reason. They are designed to protect the most vulnerable of our road-users - inexperienced learner drivers.

Sadly, some parents are turning a blind eye to this and knowingly allowing their young adults to drive unaccompanied, without L-plates and with passengers.

In response a new law will come into effect soon. It is often referred to as the Clancy amendment, in recognition of Noel Clancy, who lost his wife and daughter in a crash involving an unaccompanied learner driver. It will mean the car of a learner driver can be seized by the gardai. In addition, anyone who loans a car to an unaccompanied learner driver faces prosecution and having their car impounded.

Irish Independent

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