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  • irishtimes.com - Posted: September 2, 2010 @ 12:01 am

    RSA introduce new measures for learner drivers

    Michael McAleer

    The RSA has announced a series of measures which it is hoped will make learner driver’s better prepared for the road and which will cut down on the number of road deaths in the vulnerable 17-24 year-old age group. So, are they any use and are they workable?

    The nine new measures are:

    “All new first time learner permit holders with effect from 6th December 2010 for motorcycles and 4th April 2011 for cars will be required to undertake mandatory initial basic training (IBT) with an approved driving instructor (ADI). The course will be 16 hours for motorcycle and 12 hours for car licences.”

    This is clearly a good thing and few would argue with the need for compulsory training and the fact that these are going to be undertaken by certified, registered instructors is likely to raise the standard of tuition.

    “The role of the supervising driver accompanying learner drivers will be strengthened and we will introduce a requirement for learner drivers to keep a learner log to be signed by their approved driving instructor and their accompanying driver.”

    Noel Brett, speaking on RTE Drivetime, said that the RSA see an increased role for parents and guardians to take a more active interest in the tuition of younger and more inexperienced drivers. Provisional license holders have always been required to have a fully licenced driver with them. That was the theory at least, but this was rarely enforced without good reason. It was and remained pretty impractical for learner drivers to bring a licenced driver with them all the time, whether it is legal or not. Speak to Gardai privately and they will tell you that they aren’t in the habit of pulling over learner driver’s who aren’t accompanied unless they bring particular attention to themselves. Now, the idea is that your licenced driver will not only sit there and fill a passenger seat only, but will serve to help the ‘student’ through a series of modules. These are expected to include things like night driving. These modules will consist of three hours of guidance on various tasks.

    “The drink driving limits for drivers with learner permits and those in their first two years on a full driving licence will be reduced to 20mg/100ml. This legislation has been passed by the Oireachtas and will come into effect in September 2011.”

    With the rest of us due to have our limit reduced to 50mg/100ml, having a reduced limited for learner and ‘novice’ drivers makes a degree of sense. However, a salient point made on one of the radio programmes is that female drivers ages 17-24 are statistically safer than every male driver category, so is it fair to negatively penalise newly qualified female drivers, even if they are less likely, according to the RSA’s own figures, than male driver’s with years of experience?

    “The penalty points for specified offences will be increased for learner and novice drivers so that accumulation of penalty points during the learning phase and in the first two years on a full licence will pose a real threat of disqualification and will impact positively on risk taking and driver behaviour.”

    The same can be said of this as the one before. Sure enough, this might discourage younger, newly-qualified drivers to not misbehave but is this fair for an older newly qualified driver or for females, who tend to take less risks anyway? However perhaps the benefits of this could outweigh the drawbacks. Young drivers, especially young male drivers tend to take more risks, so a deterant such as this would perhaps make younger drivers get into the habit behaving better, sooner.

    “A standard Hazard Perception Test will be developed and carried out during the novice driver phase. The hazard perception test will specifically address risk taking and perception of risk among novice drivers.”

    Rather than having a test that involved driving like a nun around town, being negatively marked, the test might be more practical. Noel Brett mentioned that a test could involve the participant being asked to drive to a hospital without direction and they would be measured on their competence throughout the journey.

    “The current driving test will be modernised to more effectively reflect driver competencies and to influence the learning undertaken by learners. We will introduce a new externally accredited driving test format in the last quarter of 2011.”

    Naturally it is hoped that there will be elements included in the new test format that will be more relevant to the actual driving that people undertake everyday, so this might include elements of dual carraigeway driving and at a later stage, a motorway element, although this is something that is likely to take some time.

    “Novice drivers will be required to display an R (restricted) plate during the first two years of their full driving licence to support the restrictions that are placed on their licence for that duration.”

    This has been in place in Northern Ireland for some time. This allows easier enforcement of the restrictions that are put in place on the newly qualified drivers. Compliance of this is likely to be pretty poor though and again, it would require added enforcement, something that is pretty unlikely. This is likely to be one of the least welcome measures from those who have followed all the guidelines and successfully passed their test.

    “The current Driver Theory Test question bank and supporting learning materials will be reconfigured to make it more effective as a learning tool.”

    The theory test does need to be modernised and is widely regarded as not being very challenging.

    We will engage with the Department of Justice and Law Reform, the Gardai and the Courts Service to develop the range and combination of sentencing options available to the courts for driving offences for learner and novice drivers.

    New punishments will include a requirement to retake a driving test; fit a speed limiter, being barred from carrying passengers and/or having a curfew imposed on their car usage. The legislation will also provide for an alcolock to be fitted to the car of those convicted of drink driving, and the introduction of a tracking device. These measures could take quite some time to be introduced and again could be a nightmare to enforce.

    For more on this see:


    • paul m says:

      driving at night, driving in wet weather and fog/poor visibility should all be compulsory. you can technically get away with doing a test in realitvely good weather depending when you book it. we spend most of the year driving in darkness and poor weather on badly marked roads so it would make sense to reflect this.

      there should also be a way to incorporate regaining control of a car when its gone into a skid. racecar drivers use a trolley that lifts the wheels off the ground at the moment it enters a turn thus simulating loss of control. this may sound fanciful but just reading about what to do as a car starts to drift front or rear isnt as effective as seeing how frightening it is to experience it for real and attempt to engage some rational thinking while its happening. it can contribute to people understanding how a car can easily lose control at high speeds.

      driver theory should be compulsory part of school education. just like drinking and smoking, children are exposed to the “glamorous” side of it very early on without fully understanding the implications of moderation (speed kills just as smoking and alcohol do).

    • ImNotTelling says:

      I recently stated learning to drive. nobody cares if there is a L plate on, they all cut me up, cyclists cycle right next to me, people overtake on bends nearly crashing into an oncoming car (this has happened twice in the 2 weeks i have been learning) People open their car doors, puch pushchairs into the road in front of me and run out right infront.
      People dont indicate, they dont go in the right lanes at junctions and roundabouts.

      All of this , and i havent done any of the above to others, yet Learner drivers and recently passed drivers are being penalised. they dont only need to chhange the test (the chnges seem pretty pointless anyway and my instructor agrees!) but on drivers in general!

      Its not fair, my age people get blamed for everything when all we do is live in the world the older generations have created for us, which by the way isnt all that good, so well done older people!

    • mattm says:

      Just to comment that “R” plates only exist in the North, not the whole of the UK – I think England got rid of them donkeys years ago, presumably Scotland the same. They’re a complete aberration, particularly the ridiculous restriction holding you to a 45 mph limit, fairly dangerous on modern roads where the limit is 60 and plenty are doing 80+. And totally insane on a motorway.

    • bren says:

      why should we be care whether you have an l plate thats your look out…….idiot

    • Gir says:

      I agree with point 2. When I was learning how to drive 2 years ago I was also cut off on roundabouts, people always drove really close to me and would over take me on the inside bus lane even though I would be doing the speed limit. I’ve also been over taken by double decker buses and garda cars (without a siren) even though I would be doing the speed limit!

      I think learners shouldn’t have to put up R plates once they get there full licence as this will cause other drivers to take even more chances when around them. I also think full licence drivers should have to take a test ever 10 years when their licence comes up for renewal to make sure that they know how to drive correctly and know the rules of the road.

    • Eoin Darcy says:

      some of the comments by im not telling are true we are a nation of bad drivers,but mostly whats been highlighted are known as ‘hazards’ and happen quite often ,we have created this attitude to driving in Ireland of impatience for learner drivers,but i expect that wont change.so im not telling heres some pointers 1. fog lights are for fog only!!!!!! 2.the right hand lane on motorways are for overtaking only 3.every blind corner has a crater an accident and a Garda around it 4. road rage will eventually get you in a fight 5.putting 17s on your 1 litre will kill your car 6.lifes not fair ,boo

    • Frank says:

      When will these guys stop pussy footing around the issues and make satellite trackers mandatory on all vehicles. This will track position, speed and direction and can be logged historically and could be used for generating speeding fines and warnings also also can track cars not insured. taxed or NCT’d along with tracking stolen vehicles. I do alot of driving around Ireland and I see lots of stupid drivers doing 100kph through small villages and when you slow down through villages you get flashed, beeped and overtaken. Doing 150kph on a motorway, just because you can, is crazy. I generally set my cruise control to 120kph and at the end of it I am along side the guy who whizzed passed me at some stage of my journey. Kids who pull up at the end of my cul-de-sac and do handbrake turns could be tracked when giving a reg plate to the gardai. Speed limiters wont be any good in built up areas or in housing estates. The RSA should make it mandatory to install satelite trackers in NCT centres.

    • lucille reynolds says:

      I would appreciate if there was better road markings on the road as its very difficult to see worn white lines.
      Also I recommend everybody should have to repeat a driving test every 7 years. I know some that never did one and dont know the rules of the road. Also down the Country where little or no transport exists how are young mature people supposed to have somebody to be with them if the have to travel over 50 miles to work or college and where does the other person go that has sat with him. It is a very different story down the Country.

      I believe that after two years all L driver should have special hours @ weekends that they can practice on their own to get confidence in order to pass the test. I could write a book on what I see on the roads and its L drivers.

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