In the week where a grand plan for the rejuvenation of rural Ireland was launched, we saw what could be considered to be yet another attack on life in rural Ireland when a plan to target and prosecute learner drivers was announced.
The plan to repossess cars and fine parents or any individual who allow learner drivers to drive their cars unaccompanied ought to be considered outrageous. Of course there may be issues regarding the number of learner drivers involved in accidents but this latest measure is akin to using a rock breaker to crack a nut.
Not all learner drivers are reckless, school-going teenagers but are young and maybe not-so-young, responsible people who have completed their college education and are trying to start out in the workforce where the use of a car is necessary for so many. Not all learner drivers have the luxury of an adult to accompany them to and from work, especially if they have long commutes and live in rural Ireland.
It is obvious those who come up with such regulations are totally removed from reality on the ground, especially for those in rural Ireland as the luxury of public transport at appropriate times are either inadequate or totally absent. These draconian plans may result in learner drivers not even displaying learner discs in order to try to avoid detection — it would be hard to blame them if they did so.
Everyone had to learn to drive at some stage in their lives but the targeting of learner drivers in this way is being used as a scape goat by Transport Minister Shane Ross and the Government to hide their own failures in this area in not addressing the issue in
a fair way by implementing a more progressive approach.
As we are depending on young people to shape the future of our country, instead of putting obstacles in their way, we ought to be helping them. The minister could insist on speed limiters to be installed in cars driven by learner drivers and could prohibit learner drivers from driving cars during late evening and hours of darkness to minimise the accident
factor. Those with full licences also ought to have a role to play by being more aware of the presence of learner drivers and give them greater courtesy and space on the road.
Of course, the failure of Mr Ross and Government to speed up the testing process of learner drivers and reduce waiting time for driving tests and re-tests to weeks instead of many months is the main problem behind the number of learner drivers on the road. To actually prosecute learner drivers and their parents without having the correct procedures in place to improve and rectify the problems of the licensing system only shows the total disconnect between our lawmakers and the general public. On top of all this, young drivers are faced with an exorbitant cost of insurance and in many cases the insurance costs more that their cars are worth. It is time our elected representatives woke up to what is happening in this whole area.