The latest annual report of the Road Safety Authority shows a total of 3,173 learner drivers were detected driving unaccompanied during 2015 — a new penalty point offence which was only introduced in December 2014.
There were more than 240,000 motorists driving on learner permits at the end of 2015.
The offence incurs two penalty points and a €80 fine if paid within 28 days. If challenged, the offender can obtain four penalty points upon conviction.
Learner drivers face six months disqualification if they incur a total of seven penalty points within a two-year period. The threshold is 12 points for full-licence holders.
The report also reveals that 50 motorists were caught and fined for driving the wrong way on a motorway last year, while 332 motorists were issued with penalty points for failing to stop for gardaí.
It shows a slight increase in the overall number of penalty point offences committed by motorists in 2015 with almost 756,200 notices issued — up 1% on the previous year.
Speeding continued to be the main penalty point offence with 572,582 drivers caught over the speed limit.
The second most common offence was using a mobile phone when driving with 81,832 motorists detected.
A survey conducted of more than 14,000 motorists in October 2015 found 3% were holding a mobile phone — with no gender difference in the offending rate.
The report confirms a total of 166 people died on Irish roads last year — the second lowest annual number of road deaths since records began in 1959. A 14% decrease in road fatalities in the Republic last year was one of the biggest decreases of any of the 28 EU member states.
However, RSA chairwoman Liz O’Donnell said she had difficulty in describing the figures “as a success”.
“While I welcome the reduction in the number of fatalities and those bereaved, I’m acutely aware that there are 166 families and communities devastated as a result of road trauma last year,” said Ms O’Donnell.
Although crude, she claimed the number of people killed on roads was the only way to measure progress in road safety.
The Government Road Safety Strategy 2013-2020 has set a target of reducing road deaths to no greater than 25 fatalities per million population by 2020 — a figure equivalent to 124 deaths per annum.
The current road fatality rate in Ireland is 36 deaths per million which is below the EU average of 52 deaths per million population and the fifth lowest level in Europe after Sweden, the UK, Denmark and the Netherlands.
Ms O’Donnell said attention needed to be turned back on issues that the RSA thought had been effectively tackled such as excessive speed and drink-driving. The RSA’s annual free speed survey showed that 60% of motorists broke the speed limit on urban roads, excluding residential areas, last year.
The figure was 74% on urban national roads. On rural roads, the number breaking the speed limit was 22%.
The percentage of cars speeding on motorways and dual carriageways decreased last year to 21% and 28% respectively.