Unaccompanied learner drivers may have cars seized

Road safety group criticises ‘lack of urgency’ in activating new penalties

 Minister for Transport Shane Ross said inexperienced drivers were up to five times more likely to be involved in a collision. Photograph: Matt Kavanagh

Minister for Transport Shane Ross said inexperienced drivers were up to five times more likely to be involved in a collision. Photograph: Matt Kavanagh

 

New penalties targeting the owners of cars which are driven by an unaccompanied learner driver are a response to a “nod and a wink” attitude which sees learner drivers believe they have a right to drive on their own, according to the Minister for Transport.

The penalties are part of a number of amendments to the Road Traffic Act 2016, passed in 2016, which aim to deal with the number of learner motorists driving unaccompanied.

Another amendment will allow for the car being driven by an unaccompanied learner driver to be seized.

However, legal concerns over the wording of the amendments have stalled their signing into law.

The so-called Clancy law followed the case of Geraldine Clancy (58) and her daughter Louise (22), who were killed in a crash involving an unaccompanied learner driver on December 22nd, 2015.

Noel Clancy, husband of Geraldine, and a member of road safety group Parc, criticised the delay in activating the new laws and said he could not understand the “lack of urgency shown by the RSA, Department of Transport and Government in general”.

“Since the learner driver amendment law was passed by the Dáil and Seanad in December 2016, at least 11 unaccompanied learner drivers have died on Irish roads.”

‘Needlessly die’

Mr Clancy called on Minister for Transport Shane Ross to instil in his department “a sense of urgency before more people needlessly die at the hands of unaccompanied learner drivers”.

Mr Ross said there was an unacceptably high level of collisions, many involving death or serious injury resulting from unaccompanied learner drivers.

“It is an absolute no-brainer that this has to change.”

Under the proposals, which are currently being worked on by the Attorney General, the owner of a vehicle will face prosecution if an unaccompanied learner driver is found behind the wheel. This will apply to all vehicles, including private cars, agricultural vehicles and commercial vehicles.

However, Mr Ross said the level of penalty points a learner motorist receives for driving unaccompanied would remain unchanged at 2, and 4 upon conviction in court. A learner driver faces disqualification and a six-month driving ban if they receive seven penalty points.

“I know it [the new law] will create difficulties for a lot of people, but the current situation is leading to deaths,” said the Minister.

‘Get to work’

“A lot of TDs came to me and said, ‘this is absurd, how can people get to work?’ I just said: ‘I am sorry, they are breaking the law. They are going to have to abide by the law.’”

Mr Ross said inexperienced drivers were up to five times more likely to be involved in a collision.

In a case where a vehicle owner claimed a vehicle was taken without their permission, Mr Ross said it would be up to gardaí to determine who to prosecute.

The Minister added that his officials were talking to insurance companies about the “possibility of invalidating insurance for an unaccompanied learner driver involved in a collision”.