DRIVERS caught speeding on their way to a medical emergency will have to produce evidence of any crisis to gardai in order to escape penalty points.
The move comes after new measures were brought in to penalise rogue motorists.
Penalty points have been increased from today for nine offences, while a further 14 offences will attract points for offending drivers for the first time.
Drivers caught speeding will face three points on the payment of a fixed charge notice or five points if they challenge it in court and lose.
Previously they incurred two points if they paid the fixed charge notice or four if convicted in court.
Transport Minister Paschal Donohoe said that while gardai would be expected to use their own discretion in sensitive cases, such as somebody rushing to a sick relative, evidence of a crisis would be needed.
"We have to recognise the role of discretion by the gardai in dealing with issues like that. I would expect that the gardai would look for evidence," he added.
He said that this would have to be done following the controversy that arose after garda whistleblower Maurice McCabe spoke out on cancellation of penalty points by gardai.
Speaking to RTE this morning, the minister also said that the new points system would apply equally to everybody.
"I am absolutely certain that they will because of the concerns that Mr McCabe raised," he said.
"We now have a centralised system in place that means that only a small number of gardai will be able to change them or cancel them. That is the right change to make," he added.
Inexperienced learner or novice drivers have also been targeted and will face penalty points for the first time.
Any driver who does not display the necessary L-plate or N-plate will face a minimum of two points, while learners driving unaccompanied by a qualified person will also receive points.
"The feedback that we have got is that while we are making progress overall in road safety and making our roads safer for pedestrians and people in cars, we do have an issue with the risk that either N or L-plate drivers can have," said the minister.
"If you have an L or N-plate, the penalty point threshold for losing your licence is seven points," he added.
Several other new offences will also carry points for the first time, carrying one point each, including breaking the rules at mini-roundabouts and driving beyond 'no entry' signs.
Two offences which previously involved court proceedings have been brought into the penalty points system.
Driving without an NCT certificate and parking in a dangerous position will now incur points.
"This is being done of the basis of evidence and feedback that we receive from either the RSA or the Garda Siochana," said Mr Donohoe.