Why your driver's licence is a privilege that must be earned
It was the late Seamus Brennan who, as minister for transport, said that owning a driving licence was a privilege and not an automatic right.
He was absolutely right. A driving licence needs to be treated with real respect.
It is a valuable piece of personal property. It gives greater mobility and freedom. It improves your employment prospects. For some it is essential for their job. With a licence someone can drive 40 tonnes of metal across the continent of Europe.
We have to earn the right to carry a licence. It needs to be protected and we need to know that it can be taken away from us if we treat it with disrespect.
The way we are trained, tested and licensed has changed dramatically over the last decade.
A theory test and mandatory driving lessons, with regulated driving instructors, are required before you can take a driving test. More measures are coming down the track.
Considerable time and money is invested into securing a driving licence. If someone breaks road safety laws, they risk getting points or possibly losing their licence. As a result people are less likely to risk their investment, their mobility and job by acting carelessly when using the road.
But that's the way it should be. A driving licence should be something that is hard to get, and easily taken away if you do not treat it with respect.
Protecting the integrity of the driving licence is important too. Sad to say, but there are individuals who will go to great lengths to go around driver licensing laws and the driving test to fraudulently obtain a licence.
It is also a reality that such individuals are most likely to be among the same group of drivers that regularly break road safety laws; the group most likely to be uninsured; or driving a car, bus or truck without its certificate of roadworthiness.
It wasn't that long ago that TV3 aired a series about fraud in Ireland. In one episode someone was shown, face blurred out of course, counterfeiting a driving licence at a kitchen table.
I ask you: Why should the majority of people who are using our roads, who have invested time and money taking lessons and the driving test to earn the right to carry a driving licence, have to share the road with people who haven't bothered to do any of this and are putting all of us at risk?
In January this year we took a step closer to taking these people off our roads when the new plastic card driving licence was introduced. In time the old paper driver licence will be replaced by a more modern credit card sized plastic licence. It's part of an EU-wide change to upgrade all driver licences. The new licence is more secure and has high level security features that will help to prevent loss, counterfeiting and theft.
Yesterday, a new layer of security was added. A new service was rolled out which is going to be a major step towards taking unlicensed and illegal drivers off our roads.
From now on, if you are applying for a licence you will need to do so in person at one of the 34 National Driver Licence Service centres. They are open Monday to Friday, through lunch, from 9am to 5pm. They are open Saturday too from 9am to 2pm. You will need to bring along some documentation to prove you are who you say you are. Your photograph and signature will be taken digitally and your licence will be posted out to you within eight days. You will only need to do this once and it will introduce a high level of security to obtaining a licence in this country.
Eleven years after Seamus Brennan uttered his words, we are finally arriving at a point where we can say having a licence really is a privilege that's been earned.