Vehicles and licences to be linked in points clampdown
New central register for gardaí, courts and RSA
Every vehicle on the road will be linked directly to the driver's licence for the first time, in a radical overhaul designed to ensure that penalty points effectively punish those who have committed motoring offences.
A new central register will be accessible to the Courts Service, the gardaí and the Road Safety Authority (RSA), which is responsible for the allocation of penalty points.
It would see car owners being required to provide licence details when they purchase a car and each time they transfer ownership - so that a vehicle would always be linked with its driver or drivers.
The move is a solution to problems which have dogged the enforcement of the penalty points system.
These include the failure by seven motorists out of every 10 convicted of penalty point offences to produce their licence in court, thus avoiding having the points applied to their licence.
It would also help authorities keep a better track of motorists who have been disqualified from driving.
Sources said the proposal had been discussed extensively by a working group comprising the Department of Justice, Department of Transport, An Garda Síochána, the Courts Service and the Road Safety Authority (RSA).
It is not yet clear what sort of financial investment would be needed in order to implement a system of matching driving licences to vehicles.
However, if the costings can be agreed upon, the initiative could be officially announced by the end of the year.
Details of the proposal come just weeks after the Irish Independent revealed how more than 20,000 motorists had taken advantage of a loophole to avoid getting penalty points on their licences. These were drivers who failed to produce their licences in court over the course of a 15-month period.
Some 72pc of motorists convicted of penalty point offences between January 2014 and March of this year managed to avoid the imposition of penalty points in this way.
Significant efforts have been made by the Courts Service to ensure that licences are presented, including the prominent signage and announcements at the beginning of sittings informing motorists of the requirement.
However, in many cases these warnings are still simply being ignored.
It is thought that the new scheme linking licences with cars would get rid of the need to record licence numbers in courts.
Instead, there would be a central register where the details are stored and these would be accessible to the relevant authorities.
Under the current system, when licence numbers are not provided in court, the RSA has to do a time- and resource-consuming matching exercise to ensure that points are applied to the licence of the offender.
Although it is an offence not to produce your licence in court, punishable by a fine of up to €2,000, the law is regularly flouted and until recently was not being enforced by gardaí.
The force initiated a crackdown last month, with gardaí prosecuting people for not producing their licences when requested to do so by the judge or the registrar.
Gardaí are due to announce figures on such prosecutions later in the week, but it is understood that at least 30 arrests were made within days.
Meanwhile, the Department of Transport has said it is confident that a separate loophole, which threatened to void penalty points that were issued between August and December of last year, has now been fully closed.
One driver, Athlone woman Kim Nugent, successfully challenged the imposition of six penalty points, which would have given her a total of 12 and therefore an automatic disqualification.
Her legal team argued that a technical loophole, relating to the failure to properly commence certain relevant legislation from 2010, had the effect of rendering the endorsement and penalty points null and void.
The case was settled and Ms Nugent had her points cancelled.
However, a department spokesman said it was confident that it could successfully fight off any other challenges.
Ms Nugent succeeded as her case had been lodged before the loophole was closed.