Tens of thousands of drivers are on at least their third learner permit, with over half on a fifth or later learner permit.
Furthermore, “learner permit lifers” are clogging up the system and costing themselves and the taxpayer significant sums of money every year.
Figures provided by the Road Safety Authority (RSA) reveal 65,161 learner drivers are on their third permit or more.
And 36,814 of them are on a fifth or more learner permit.
Overall, a total of 124,370 drivers are currently on a first provisional licence with 53,027 on their second, 15,448 on their third, and 12,899 on their fourth.
The majority of L-drivers are aged between 30 and 39 years old while about 10,000 are aged between 50 and 80-plus.
A total of 210, aged over 80 years, are on at least their third learner permit.
Online insurance brokers Insuremycars.ie obtained the figures and highlighted the problem with learner permit “lifers”.
Its spokeswoman, Deirdre McCarthy, called on the Government to urgently address the issue, pointing out that fully licensed drivers pay less for insurance than learner motorists.
“While a few may be late bloomers when it comes to driving, it’s apparent that many have been on the roads for years, without either taking or passing the driving test,” she said.
“Recent reports have highlighted the lengthy delays of driving test wait times, all across the country, with some waiting up to 25 weeks to sit their test.”
Ms McCarthy said learner drivers should be restricted in the number of times they can be granted a learner permit.
“Something needs to be done to address this backlog.
“We believe that if people were restricted in the number of times they could be granted a learner permit, it would lessen the number of driving test applications as people move from a learner permit to a full licence,” she said.
The RSA has indicated that around 19,000 learner drivers failed to show up for their driving tests last year, around 15% of the total number conducted in 2017.
Insuremycars.ie is advocating changes to the system to ensure that motorists are required to actually take, rather than simply apply for, the test before getting another permit.
Ms McCarthy said the continual rollover of provisional licenses may be a cultural attitude which has remained since the licence amnesty of the 1970s.
“In all likelihood, over the years, licensing regulators have had a difficult time keeping track of those who were on second or third permits, particularly each time there was a flood of applications that the system, as it was then, couldn’t handle,” she said.
“Measures such as the amnesty of 1979 exemplified the hitherto lax cultural attitude towards the procurement of a full licence, a prevalent attitude of the day which, perhaps, still exists in the attitude of 40/50/60-year somethings towards it.”
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