Department considers change to law on unaccompanied learner drivers

The Department of Transport says it will examine possible changes to the law surrounding provisional drivers following a request from the family of two women killed in a car crash last year.
Department considers change to law on unaccompanied learner drivers

On Monday, Noel Clancy, whose wife Geraldine and daughter Louise were killed following a collision with a car driven by an unaccompanied learner motorist on December 22, 2015, called on the Government “to implement legislation so that allowing one’s car to be driven by an unaccompanied learner driver is an offence”.

Speaking outside Cork District Court where Susan Gleeson received a three-year suspended sentence for dangerous driving, Mr Clancy called for legislation that “would make the car owner and driver equally accountable in law”.

Gleeson, aged 21, of Kilworth, Co Cork, was also banned from driving for 15 years.

Yesterday the Department of Transport said it and the Road Safety Authority will look at the possibility of changing the law in line with Mr Clancy’s proposal.

“The department will examine, in consultation with the RSA and other key stakeholders, the Clancy family’s proposal as soon as practicable,” said a spokesperson.

“This process will obviously include obtaining legal advice and, depending on the outcome of that advice, the legal vires for such a proposal will ultimately require specific provision in a future Road Traffic Bill.

“The priority for the department at this time, however, is the passage of the Road Traffic Bill 2016 through the Houses of the Oireachtas, with a view to having it enacted before the year end.”

The comments from the department follow remarks by RSA chief executive Moyagh Murdock, who said the proposal has merit.

“This is an area that would merit further examination, for an offence to allow your vehicle to be driven by someone who is unaccompanied, and I have actually discussed it with the minister who has talked to me about this,” Ms Murdock told RTÉ radio’s Morning Ireland.

“Without discussing any particular case, I think there is merit in looking at an offence in that area. By their nature, learners and novices are inexperienced,” she said.

“We have seen an improvement over the past number of years in terms of the numbers involved in serious and fatal collisions, but there is still a small number out there who drive unaccompanied, and that is a problem and people are being killed, so I think we will be looking at that and exploring what can be done about it.”

However, Ms Murdock said that the examination of the issue is at the “very early stages” at present.

“We don’t want to comment about a specific case, but [yesterday’s case] does bring into focus the risk posed to drivers and other road users by someone who is not accompanied and isn’t supervised at the very early stages of their driving career.

“They are not able to handle unexpected hazards, they are by their nature more likely to speed; that younger age group do take chances and speed — and fatal crashes that involve speed, over a five-year period, we saw up to 17% of them were by learner drivers.

“So more needs to be done in that area and I think it is probably the one offence that isn’t covered by a specific offence at the moment,” said Ms Murdock.

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