Life Motoring

Thursday 12 December 2019

New laws will protect novice drivers - from novice drivers

Our RSA expert outlines the details and reasons for new driving rules

Newly qualified drivers, known as novice drivers, are one of the most vulnerable groups on our roads.

Why? Because they haven't yet built up the experience and confidence to be fully competent drivers. This is why new regulations, which come into effect on 1 August, are being introduced. To protect novice drivers.

The Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport announced the regulations earlier this month.

There are two significant changes: the introduction of 'N' or Novice Plates and the lowering of the penalty point threshold for learner and novice drivers.

These changes apply only to newly qualified novice drivers who are getting their first ever full driving licence on or after 1 August.

The first change means that if you get your first full licence on or after the 1 August, you will have to swap your 'L' plates for 'N' plates and display them on the front and rear of your vehicle for two years after you have passed your test. If it's a motorbike, then the rider will need to wear a tabard with the letter 'N' displayed.

We've had some queries on this so to clarify: if you already hold a full licence in any category before the 1 August, you won't be affected by this change.

Neither will you have to display 'N' plates if you decide to learn to drive or ride another category of vehicle at some point in the future. It only applies to those getting their first ever full licence on or after the 1 August.

The other big change is the lowering of the penalty point threshold. This also comes into effect on 1 August and applies to anyone who receives their first ever learner permit on or after 1 August. These drivers will be subject to a lower penalty point threshold, a total of seven penalty points rather than 12. This does not apply to anyone currently in the system, for example anyone who already has a learner permit or full driving licence before 1 August.

To clear up some confusion around the initial announcement, novice drivers don't need to be accompanied while driving. However, they won't be able to act as accompanying drivers for learner driver until they are no longer a novice. But this is nothing new. The current legal requirement is that the accompanying driver for a learner driver must have held their licence for more than two years.

Also in existence since 2011 are reduced drink driving limits for novice drivers. The drink drive limit for drivers for a two year period after getting their full driving licence is 20mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood.

All of these changes are important road safety measures that form part of the Graduated Driver Licensing (GDL) system that's been in development for the past six years.

The purpose of the GDL system is to reduce the number of collisions, deaths and injuries among learner and novice drivers, particularly among the high risk 17 to 24 year olds, during the learning to drive period and period immediately after they pass their test.

Research tells us that novice drivers are most likely to be killed on our roads in the first two years after passing their test due to their inexperience. In the UK, research shows that one-in-five new drivers has a crash within six months of passing their test.

These measures are designed to protect our most vulnerable road-users so that they can become safe and confident drivers, helping to ensure we have fewer collisions, fatalities and injuries on our roads.

There is more information on the new measures on including a detailed frequently asked questions section.

Irish Independent

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