Some 65,000 Irish drivers on their third, or higher, learners’ permits

RSA blames no-show test takers for huge number of long-held provisional licences

Almost 19,000 candidates did not show up for their driving test in 2017

Almost 19,000 candidates did not show up for their driving test in 2017


More than 65,000 Irish drivers are on their third, or in some cases higher, provisional licence. Of these 36,814 of them are on their fifth or greater permit.

The number came to light as part of a Dáil question tabled by Noel Grealish, the independent TD for Galway West. Shane Ross, the Minister for Transport, referred the question to the Road Safety Authority, which manages the driver licensing system. The final answer was unearthed by online insurance brokers

Insuremycars’ Deirdre McCarthy told The Irish Times: “We did some homework around the number of learner drivers in the State and found the figures on multiple learner permits pretty staggering – there are over 65,000 people on their third or more learner permit. And 36,814 of them are on their fifth or greater permit, some of whom are in their 30s, 40s, 50s or 60s. While a few may be late bloomers when it comes to driving, it’s apparent that many have been on the roads for years, without either taking or passing the driving test. Recent reports have highlighted the lengthy delays for driving tests across the country – with some people waiting up to 25 weeks to sit their test. Something needs to be done to address this backlog and we believe that if people were restricted in the number of times they could be granted a learner permit, it would lessen the number of driving test applications as people move from a learner permit to a full licence.”

The breakdown of numbers shows that there are 124,370 people currently using their first provisional licence, 53,027 on their second, 15,448 on their third, 12,899 on their fourth, and a whopping 36,814 on their fifth or higher provisional. This last group tends to skew older, with the majority of fifth-or-higher provisional holders in the 40-49 age bracket, which has led some to speculate that this constant rollover of provisional licences could be, in some way, a hangover from the infamous licence amnesty of 1979.

According to the Road Safety Authority (RSA), the biggest problem is simply that people cannot be forced to sit their test. “The Road Safety Authority can’t compel anyone to sit or take a driving test which would help eliminate long-term reliance on a learner permit,” a spokesperson told The Irish Times. “Furthermore it should be noted that even if we compel people to sit a test, it does not guarantee that they will make an effort to pass the test. We believe that this can be achieved through the new measures proposed by the Minister for Transport; to prosecute those who supply a vehicle to an unaccompanied learner driver and to give gardaí powers to detain a vehicle at the roadside if someone is driving unaccompanied. These new provisions will act as a significant deterrent to driving long term on the learner permit and force individuals to make a genuine effort to not only attend but pass their driving test.”

Attendance is also, according to the RSA, a serious part of the problem. “Almost 19,000 candidates did not show up for their driving test in 2017, equating to 15 per cent of driving tests and six weeks of lost productivity,” said the spokesperson. “Many of these candidates failed to turn up because they are simply booking a driving test in order to apply for the renewal of their learner permit.