LEARNER drivers will have to pay lesson fees of up to €700 before being allowed to go for their test, Transport Minister Noel Dempsey last night insisted.
The minister said training by professional instructors was needed to prevent road tragedies like the one in Donegal which left eight people dead last week.
Mr Dempsey said a graduated driver licensing system under which learners would need a minimum number of lessons from registered instructors to pass a test could be installed in six months.
The minister said learners would have to keep a log of the hours they spent practicing and only those who pass a new syllabus will get the chance to take a test.
Mr Dempsey said the move was among a raft of measures, some of which would need legislative change and could not become law until 2012, when a new road safety bill is expected. The changes will affect new permit holders and not existing drivers.
“I’d like to see the roads a lot safer for everybody. And the best way of doing that is by ensuring anybody who is starting out driving actually knows how to drive and that they are not learning on their own on the roads around the country,” he said while attending the MacGill Summer School.
The minister said the lessons could cost up to €700 but that was a small price to pay for road safety.
“It will cost them to do the lessons, but that’s a price I think people should be willing to pay and I think parents should be willing to pay it to ensure their sons and daughters are safe.
“In relative terms, that will be a very small cost to prevent the kind of stuff that we have seen over the last week in Donegal, and that can be seen, practically, in one place or another around the country every week.”
Mr Dempsey warned there was a particular cultural problem with young male drivers, who needed extra training to make them safer on the roads. Ireland is one of the few countries in Europe that does not have a structured learning programme for new drivers.
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