More than 900 cars driven by unaccompanied learner drivers seized

Almost 5,000 learner drivers in State have held permit for more than 20 years

More than 900 cars that were being driven by unaccompanied learner drivers were seized in the first four months of this year, the latest figures from An Garda Síochána show.

There are approximately 250,000 learner permit holders in the State, including almost 5,000 who have had a learner permit for more than 20 years.

It is possible for learner permit holders to have their permit repeatedly renewed, even if they repeatedly fail to turn up for their booked driving test.

The Garda figures, which were given to the road safety and victim support group Parc show a wide variation in the number of cars being seized in different parts of the State in the first four months of the year.


The Dublin region accounted for 403 of the 923 seized cars. Cork city accounted for 44, and Co Louth accounted for 30.

However, there were only three cars seized in Sligo/Leitrim during the period, and counties Clare and Mayo only accounted for five each.

Avoiding tests

“We have noticed a pattern of low numbers in some counties and it is not changing,” said Parc’s chair, Susan Gray, whose husband Stephen was killed in a road traffic collision in 2004 involving an unaccompanied learner driver. “Maybe there are no unaccompanied drivers in those counties. I don’t know.”

The group is critical of the way learner drivers can repeatedly avoid sitting driving tests, and yet continue to be issued with extensions of their permits.

“There are thousands of learners out there who have not sat a driving test,” Ms Gray said. “They don’t have to turn up for a test, ever.”

Parc wants to see the law changed so that a learner has to sit a test before he or she can have their permit renewed.

A new law introduced in 2018 made it an offence for a learner permit holder to drive unless they were accompanied by a fully licenced driver.

A subsequent amendment allowed a vehicle driven by an unaccompanied driver to be seized. It must then be retrieved and a €125 fee paid by its owner.

The amendment also introduced penalties for car owners who knowingly permit their vehicles to be driven by an unaccompanied learner driver.

Penalty points

Data from the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport shows there were 2,382 instances of penalty points being issued to learner drivers in the first four months of the year.

Of the total number of instances, 673 involved speeding offences, and 124 involved driving while holding a mobile phone.

There were 742 instances of penalty points being issued for being unaccompanied while driving with a learner permit, 62 for learners driving “without due consideration”, and 53 for learners not obeying a traffic signal. Penalty points were issued to 120 learner drivers for driving without insurance.

The figures, released by the department to Newstalk radio, show there were 239,682 learner driver permit holders at the end of April, with approximately 45,000 of these having had a learner permit for more than five years.

The figures show that Sligo had 2,967 learner drivers, Leitrim 1,555, Clare 5,598, and Mayo 6,139. Dublin had 69,345.

There were 4,898 learner permit holders who had a learner permit for more than 20 years.

The department was not able to say how many learner permit holders had never sat a driving test.

Colm Keena

Colm Keena

Colm Keena is an Irish Times journalist. He was previously legal-affairs correspondent and public-affairs correspondent