Road safety body wants N plate to be on all-island basis


A NEW requirement for drivers with less than two years’ experience to display novice N plates, similar to learner drivers’ L plates, should be rolled out on an all-island basis, the Road Safety Authority (RSA) has said.

Under new rules next summer inexperienced or learner drivers will be subject to a lower blood-alcohol limit of 20mg per 100ml of blood, while the penalty point disqualification threshold will be reduced from 12 to six points. This year the North’s Minister for the Environment Alex Attwood announced proposals to replace R, or restricted, plates for drivers with less than one year’s experience with N plates for drivers with less than two years’ experience.

RSA chief executive Noel Brett said: “I would be hopeful that the N plate will be in place in both jurisdictions.” He added that restrictions for inexperienced drivers enforced by other countries such as curfews and reduced speed limits unfairly penalise all novices. “Our belief at this point is that the vast majority of young people here have . . . a good attitude to road safety. If you behave yourself as a novice then you will have no problem.”

The RSA hopes to recommend additional sentencing guidelines early next year which would allow judges to order convicted drivers to resit their test or attend specific skills courses. “If you are up for dangerous overtaking the judge might say ‘here’s your fine and your points, now go away and do your training at your own expense’,” Mr Brett said. He also called for the introduction of penalty points for unaccompanied learner drivers or those who fail to display their L plates.

This week Minister for Transport Leo Varadkar announced that penalty points, applicable to all drivers, for mobile phone use, speeding, and not wearing a seatbelt would increase from two to three under the Road Traffic Bill to be published at the end of 2012.