Groups back overhaul of driver licensing system

ROAD victims and motoring supporters have backed radical changes to the driver licensing system but hinted that the new rules on training learner drivers could have gone further.

The Road Safety Authority's nine-point plan to overhaul how learner drivers are licensed was given the thumbs up despite fears it will cost inexperienced motorists more to get behind the wheel of a car.

The AA’s Conor Faughnan supported plans for compulsory lessons – due to kick in next year for learner drivers and motorcyclists. Learner drivers will have to take 12 instructor-led driving lessons before applying for their test. Despite the fact that this could cost motorists €400 or more at around €35 a lesson, the measure would save lives, he stressed.

“If you heard that the pilot of the plane that you took on your holidays never actually got a pilot licence because the lessons were very expensive or if you heard the driver of the school bus had never actually had proper lessons, you’d be livid.

“The cost of not teaching people how to drive properly must surely outweigh the cost of doing it the right way.”

Mr Faughnan said that in a recent AA survey, 86% of respondents had backed compulsory lessons for learner drivers.

He also backed plans for a near zero-alcohol tolerance for learner drivers as well as double penalty points for offending novice drivers, pointing out that in Britain motorists already received three points as opposed to two in Ireland.

Training learner drivers properly in the long run would also help reduce insurance costs and therefore save all motorists money, he said.

Road safety group PARC also welcomed the driving training measures but suggested they could have gone further. Founder Susan Grey said the group had hoped learner drivers would be compelled to get 16 to 20 hours of driving lessons.

The move to apply an ‘R’ plate to newly qualified full licensed drivers for two years was also in line with regulations in the North, added Ms Grey. But she said more resources would be needed for garda’ to enforce the license changes.

“It’s a massive improvement on what we had. We need to double garda resources though,” she said.


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