A sharp rise in the number of motorists being banned from driving this year has been linked to increased enforcement levels by gardaí.
Figures published by the Department of Transport show almost 8,100 motorists were disqualified from driving between January 1 and July 16 this year against almost 11,000 in 2018.
The figures also reveal that there is still only a small proportion of the drivers who are put off the roads surrendering their driving licence to the authorities.
According to the department, 8,090 motorists have been disqualified either through a ban imposed by the courts or by reaching the penalty point threshold for an automatic ban in 2019.
The figures also show that only 744 motorists, 9.2% of the number disqualified, have surrendered their licence as required by law.
In contrast, 10,996 drivers were banned from driving in 2018 with 15% handing in their licence.
Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan has claimed the number of those failing to comply with surrendering their licence is “nothing short of shocking”.
However, he said that the numbers do not necessarily correlate to the number of individuals who are driving while disqualified.
“Equally a person may surrender a licence but choose to flout the law and continue to drive illegally,” said Mr Flanagan.
The minister has asked his officials to meet with representatives of the Department of Transport and the Courts Service to discuss how the process of obtaining driver information upon conviction is currently operating.
A spokesperson for the Department of Justice said that the minister was also still awaiting a report requested from gardaí on a series of actions to address the issue of the non- surrender of licences.
The spokesperson said that the large increase in the number of disqualifications may be “a knock-on effect” of the recent increase in detections by gardaí of key “lifesaver offences” which were a focus of the Garda’s enforcement strategy for 2019.
Figures published by gardaí last week showed that the detection of speeding offences is up 48% this year while detections of the non-wearing of seatbelts are up 27%.
There have also been increases in the detection of using a mobile phone while driving (up 11%) and drink-driving offences (up 8%).
Gardaí have said that the distribution of 2,000 handheld devices which will allow officers to carry out roadside checks on the driving licence status of motorists as well as other information including motor insurance, will allow real-time checks to establish if a driver had been disqualified.
A spokesperson for the Road Safety Authority said that it was very difficult to state if the increase was due to greater enforcement levels, poorer driving performance or a combination of both.
The RSA spokesperson said that a focus on the number of banned motorists not surrendering their licence was “a red herring”.
“The issue is whether banned drivers are still getting into their cars and going out on the roads,” the spokesperson said.