Unaccompanied learner drivers escape serious fines

Only one-fifth of learner drivers who drive unaccompanied or fail to display an L-plate are convicted and fined

Not learning: One in every 15 road fatalities involves an unaccompanied learner driver, according to the Department of Justice. Photograph: Thinkstock.

Not learning: One in every 15 road fatalities involves an unaccompanied learner driver, according to the Department of Justice. Photograph: Thinkstock.

 

Just over one in five learner drivers summonsed for driving unaccompanied was convicted last year, and not one received the maximum fine of €1,000.

According to the Department of Justice, 2,900 learner drivers detected driving without an experienced driver received a summons in 2013, but only 661 were convicted and fined. The average fine imposed was €123.

A similar pattern emerges among learner drivers summonsed for failing to display L-plates. Proceedings were initiated against 2,611 and, of those, just 584 were convicted and fined, with the average fine again being €123. The maximum fine of €1,000 was not imposed for this offence last year.

The figures, released to Labour deputy Tommy Broughan, do not include data on how many learner drivers were cautioned rather than prosecuted for these offences. The department said that providing such data would require a “disproportionate amount of Garda resources”.

According to research from the Road Safety Authority, a quarter of all drivers killed in a collision last year were aged between 16 and 24. Separate data from the Department of Justice suggests approximately one in every 15 road fatalities involves an unaccompanied learner motorist.

Concern over the rate of deaths and serious injuries has prompted the Garda to start Operation Learner Driver, which involves nationwide checkpoints each quarter targeting unaccompanied learner drivers and those failing to display L-plates.

At one such series of checkpoints in March and April 2012, 2,200 learner drivers were stopped; 946 were unaccompanied, and 660 had no L-plates. Of these, 949 were cautioned and proceedings were initiated against 279.

Under legislation passed in recent weeks, driving unaccompanied and failing to display an L-plate will now attract two penalty points. The same law has cut from 12 to seven the number of points learner and inexperienced drivers can accrue before losing their licence.

Susan Gray, spokeswoman for road safety group Parc, called on the Minister for Transport Leo Varadkar to sign into force the new provisions without delay because learner motorists are “flouting existing laws”.

“A very small percentage of those being summonsed are actually convicted and even these figures do not include those drivers who are let off with merely a caution,” said Gray. “The current laws are simply not being enforced and learner drivers are completely ignoring the requirement to be accompanied by an experienced driver and display L-plates.

“Too many learner drivers are involved in fatal and serious injury collisions and these crashes are devastating families”.