All learner and novice drivers who receive seven penalty points will be disqualified

Those who held licences before points threshold change in 2014 will now be affected

Move by the Department of Transport to affect 3,000 drivers. File photograph: Getty

Move by the Department of Transport to affect 3,000 drivers. File photograph: Getty

 

All leaner and novice drivers will be disqualified after receiving seven penalty points regardless of how long they have held their licences, the Department of Transport has said.

The move changes a previous position which stated those who held the licences before the penalty point threshold changed to seven points in 2014 would not be affected.

Drivers on full licences can be put off the road on receipt of 12 points.

On Friday, the department issued a statement saying it was writing to inform just over 3,000 affected leaner and novice drivers of the “legal clarification”, about 0.1 per cent of all drivers across all licence categories.

New legislation introduced in August, 2014 , created the “novice driver” category and changed the penalty point disqualification threshold for learner and novice drivers to seven points.

Legal advice

“The interpretation by the department, based on legal advice received at the time, was that this new threshold should be applied only to people who entered the driver licensing system on or after that date,” it said.

“Those learner drivers already in the system before the new legislation was introduced on 1st August 2014 should continue to be subject to the standard 12 points disqualification threshold.”

However, it said that following “further, revised, legal advice” the seven point threshold was applicable to those with licenses before that date.

While the change affects thousands of drivers, the department said nobody faced immediate disqualification because they are legally entitled to be advised of the disqualification at the time of the offence that led to it.

“Should any affected person incur additional penalty points from six weeks after their notification date, which results in them having 7 or more points on their licence while still a novice or learner driver, they will then be disqualified,” it said.

It also said there was no evidence that affected drivers “have been involved in a fatal or serious collision while they should have been disqualified”.

The Road Safety Authority did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Parc – the road safety victim support group that has consistently raised concerns around rules governing learner drivers – said the change was welcome but was a further example of problems in road traffic law, which is badly in need of an overhaul.

“It’s another reason why the Road Traffic Acts should be consolidated and we have been calling for it since 2012,” said its chairwoman, Susan Gray. “Each time they tell us there is no need or they are going to do it some time.

“It’s beggars belief that this situation was created in 2014 and here we are seven years later and [the Department of] Transport are only contacting drivers now. We will be watching this closely.”