If an L-driver fails to show for a test, and then reapplies, they are allowed to drive for another 12 months under the L plate. The high level of “no-shows” is attributed to this automatic extension.
Since 2013, the Road Safety Authority (RSA) is allowed to pocket the €85 test application fee for every no-show, which nets the authority about €1.7m annually. Any significant reduction in the level of no-shows would have a corresponding reduction in income for the RSA.
Brian Farrell, of the RSA, said the authority has been engaged with the Department of Transport over a long period attempting to address the issue.
“Over six weeks of productivity is being lost every year because people don’t turn up,” he said.
“It is being abused but we can’t compel them to sit the test. We are trying to find a way to stop [the abuse] but it is not easy.”
He denied there was any conflict of interest in the authority benefiting financially from the high “no show” rate. “That’s not how we do our business,” he said. “Our priority over everything is road safety.”
The authority has repeatedly stated that the failure of learners to sit the test is a contributory factor to fatalities on the road.
The RSA’s long term strategy 2013-2020 included a pledge to “reduce long-term reliance on multiple learner permits by introducing measures to ensure that learner permit holders sit a driving test before they can obtain a subsequent learner permit.”
The targeted date was the first quarter of 2014, but four years later, the level of “no shows” has not decreased.
A review of the strategy in November 2016 attributed the failure to reduce levels to a recruitment embargo which impeded the recruitment of a sufficient number of driver testers to ensure on-demand testing.
A new target date was set for first quarter of 2018, but there has still been no reduction in the number of no-shows.
Susan Gray, a spokeswoman for the road safety group Parc, said the level of no-shows is not being regarded with proper urgency. Ms Grey’s husband Steve was struck and killed by a car driven by an unaccompanied learner driver in 2004.
“Since 2014, they are waiting to employ more testers according to their own strategy,” she says.