Road safety chiefs have appealed to parents to stop inexperienced drivers getting behind the wheel on their own as figures released to the Irish Examiner show 16,132 summonses have been issued since the rule change on July 1, 2008.
Since then, all learner drivers, including those on a second provisional licence, can no longer drive unaccompanied. Despite concerns about isolated drivers in rural Ireland, Transport Minister Noel Dempsey introduced the controversial measure.
Garda statistics show at least 22 learner drivers a day are getting summonses for breaking the law. There are 240,000 learner drivers in Ireland.
Road Safety Authority chief Noel Brett said he was disheartened by the figures and urged parents to take a more active role. “Drivers who are most at risk of killing or being killed on our roads are those who hold learner permits and those in their first three years after passing their test. It’s not whether you have a licence, it’s to do with experience and confidence.
“I’m disappointed that the gardaí would have to summons that many people. I appeal to parents to become more involved in teaching and supervising their young person’s driving. They shouldn’t tolerate a situation where cars are made available or insurance is made available.”
In the period since the laws were introduced up to the end of June this year, 8,413 learners drivers have been issued with summonses for driving unaccompanied by a fully licensed driver while a further 7,719 have been brought before the courts for failing to display L-plates.
Drivers convicted of either offence face fines of up to €2,000 and/or three months’ imprisonment.
Changing the perception of parents of learner drivers was just as important as rooting out the irresponsible behaviour of inexperienced motorists who had “an inflated sense of their own confidence and invulnerability,” Mr Brett said. “It is the most inexperienced drivers who disproportionately feature in death and injury collisions not just in Ireland but internationally.”
Just as families invested time and money in young people’s hobbies, it was important parents funded lessons and put their own time into accompanying learner drivers on the roads, he added.
The Road Safety Authority will next month announce details of a long-awaited Graduated Licensing System. It is expected to include new rules on the minimum number of driving lessons learner drivers must take.
The rules are unlikely to include harsh measures previously suggested such as restrictions for newly licensed motorists on driving at night or on the number of passengers they can carry.
2008 — 3,058
2009 — 3,852
2010 — 1,503
2008 — 3,111
2009 — 3,340
2010 — 1,268