Clare learner drivers least likely to have cars seized for breach of law

Data shows wide differences in application of Clancy law for driving unaccompanied

The chances of a vehicle being seized were much higher in the Dublin Metropolitan Region East at 77%

The chances of a vehicle being seized were much higher in the Dublin Metropolitan Region East at 77%

 

Learner drivers in Co Clare are the least likely to have their cars confiscated when caught and fined by gardaí for driving unaccompanied, new figures show.

Garda statistics on unaccompanied driver fines and car seizures between 2019 and the end of April show that just 18 per cent of those found in breach of the law in Co Clare have their cars seized.

Those in counties Westmeath (21 per cent), Galway (23 per cent), Wexford (23 per cent) and Mayo (25 per cent) also face a relatively low prospect of having a vehicle impounded despite receiving a fixed-charge notice.

The data from Garda divisions around the State covers the 2½ years since the introduction of the so-called Clancy Amendment to the Road Traffic Act in December 2018. The change gave gardaí additional powers to seize vehicles from learner drivers found behind the wheel without supervision from a fully qualified passenger.

A total of 15,783 €80 fixed-charge notices have been issued and 7,391 seizures recorded.

The Garda data was supplied by Minister for Justice Heather Humphreys via a parliamentary question. Figures on the issue released in May were incorrect, showing almost 6,000 fewer fixed-charge notices had been issued, though the number of confiscations remained the same.

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Gardaí say that where the owner of a seized vehicle has a full driving licence and the vehicle is compliant with all other road traffic requirements, it is returned to the owner on payment of towing and storage fees.

The latest data show that learner drivers, when detected without a qualified passenger, were quite likely to have their vehicles seized in Co Donegal, where 83 per cent of cases led to confiscation. There has been a low overall level of detections of the issue in this division, with just 231 fixed-charge notices issued.

Dublin data

The chances of a vehicle being seized were much higher in the Dublin Metropolitan Region East at 77 per cent, and in Dublin South Central and Kildare (in 68 per cent of cases where fines were issued).

Across the six Dublin metropolitan divisions, 3,124 vehicles were confiscated, accounting for 42 per cent of the national total. Between them, the six Dublin divisions issued 5,236 fixed-charge notices in total. They account for a third of the national tally.

Of the 20 other Garda divisions, the rates of confiscation against fixed-charge notices fell 31-65 per cent. The national average by division was 45 per cent.

Outside of the Dublin districts, where populations are higher, the lowest number of fixed-charge notices were issued in Sligo-Leitrim (100), Mayo and Clare (192), Westmeath (273) and Kerry (277).

The highest numbers were in Kildare (1,087) and Wexford (980). The lowest number of vehicles seized in divisions outside the capital were in Clare (35), Mayo (48), Sligo-Leitrim (54) and Westmeath (58). The highest numbers were in Kildare (741) and Limerick (326).

Parc, a road safety advocacy group, said it was “totally unacceptable” that gardaí were unable to provide a more detailed breakdown of the data on a district rather than divisional level.

“We must have transparency, consistency and accountability,” said its chairwoman, Susan Gray, who added that Parc would continue to press for the information at its next meeting with Garda management.

Social Democrats co-leader and Kildare North TD Catherine Murphy, who sought the data, said there did not appear to be a full understanding among the public of the important difference between learner and fully licensed drivers.

She acknowledged the large backlog of learner drivers waiting to sit tests and said the data underlined the need to clear this in order to avoid unnecessary vehicle seizures among competent drivers ready to move to full licences.