Nearly half of learner drivers breaking the law

Almost half of all learner drivers in the country are breaking the law — by driving unaccompanied.

Data provided by gardaí have revealed the extent to which inexperienced drivers are deliberately ignoring road traffic laws.

Two recent garda operations which targeted learner drivers found 43% were failing to adhere to the conditions on which they were granted driving permits.

Out of 2,200 learner drivers stopped at checkpoints, 946 were unaccompanied by a full licence holder.

Three out of 10 also failed to display L-plates on their vehicle — another road traffic offence.

Gardaí confirmed court proceedings are being taken against 279 learner drivers, while a further 949 received an official caution.

Motorists convicted of a road traffic offence can face a fine of up to €1,000 for their first conviction.

Non-compliance with the accompanied driver rule ranged from 30% in the Garda northern region to 51% in Dublin.

The capital also had the worst level of learner drivers failing to display L-plates with 49% of learners in Dublin breaching the rule compared to just 18% in the south east region.

The issue of learner motorists driving without being accompanied by an experienced driver was a particular focus of garda enforcement of road safety over the bank holiday weekend.

There are an estimated 235,984 learner drivers in the Republic, of which 114,632 are holding their first permit.

Road Safety Authority chief executive Noel Brett expressed disappointment at the high level of detections against learner permit holders by gardaí.

However, he welcomed garda enforcement of such vital road safety legislation.

“A learner permit allows an individual to learn to drive under certain conditions until they are ready to take a driving test.

“These include that they be accompanied by a driver who has held their full time licence for more than two years and that L-plates are displayed at all times to alert other drivers to the presence of a novice driver,” said Mr Brett.

He said such laws were introduced to protect learner drivers who are considered vulnerable road users due to inexperience.

Since May 4 last year, all first-time learner permit holders must undertake 12 hours of compulsory driving lessons as part of major reform by the RSA of the driver training system.

Mr Brett said reductions in waiting times for the driving test to a national average of 10 weeks meant there were no longer excuses for those breaching the terms of the learner permit.

He also appealed directly to parents to stop turning a blind eye to their children driving without being accompanied by a full licence holder.

Insurance companies may also withhold all non-third party costs in the event of a learner driver being involved in a collision while in breach of his permit conditions, the RSA warned.

Assistant Garda Commissioner John O’Mahoney urged learner drivers to remember their legal obligations to be accompanied by qualified drivers, to display L-plates and not to drive on motorways.

He said there was also a responsibility on vehicle owners to ensure any learner permit holders using their cars were compliant with the law.

He said gardaí would continue to prioritise the force’s road traffic enforcement activities on compliance by learner drivers.


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