RSA introduce new measures for learner drivers
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.
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