Danny Healy-Rae: Learner drivers should be allowed to drive unaccompanied

Proposed laws for unaccompanied learner drivers ‘anti-rural’, says Independent TD

Danny Healy-Rae: Rural young people need to learn to drive at a younger age compared to their urban counterparts due to a lack of public transport.

Learner drivers should be allowed to drive unaccompanied and moves to prevent them are “anti-rural” independent TD Danny Healy-Rae has said.

Mr Healy-Rae was speaking on RTÉ Prime Time which reported the proportion of learner drivers involved in fatal car accidents is much lower than the proportion of learner drivers on the road, according to figures from the Road Safety Authority.

The Government is preparing to clamp down on learner drivers who drive unaccompanied.

Plans to amend legislation would hold the owner of cars responsible if learner drivers use them unaccompanied and could see the introduction of fines, imprisonment and the seizing of vehicles.


“What are we to do with the young fella who has to drive to college and then has to drive to the school where he’s doing teacher training and then has to drive back home?” said Mr Healy-Rae.

“You can be waiting 22-24 weeks for a driving test in Killarney; that’s half a year. There are a whole lot of other things we could do instead of jailing young people. We could fix speed limiters to vehicles. There could be monitors put into vehicles that would stop them going over a certain speed. There could be a curfew imposed on what times they could drive,” he said.

“They have to get experience somewhere and they can’t pass their test until they get experience and get out on the road. Let them do a few lessons before they get their provisional licence,” he said.


Mr Healy-Rae said rural young people need to learn to drive at a younger age compared to their urban counterparts due to a lack of public transport.

“We don’t have the Dart and we don’t have the Luas or facilities people have in urban areas,” he said.

“This law will be very harsh to people in rural Ireland. Both parents have to work now to survive and to keep the house going. They are not available to sit in with the young driver,” he said.

Chief executive of the Road Safety Authority Moyagh Murdock said: “On average 12 learners are involved in fatal crashes every year and 10 are unaccompanied. That compares very unfavourably with our near neighbours in the North where in 2016 they reported no learner or unaccompanied learner involved in a fatal crash . Those are stark figures – there’s not much difference in society between North and South, but there is a different attitude towards unaccompanied learner drivers”.

The programme also spoke to Alec Lee whose 17 year old daughter Carol was killed in a crash in County Tipperary in 2000.

“All I’ve got left is memories and photographs and when you look through photos your heart breaks because the main thing that really upsets me is that there was no reason for my daughter to be dead, she should be alive and enjoying her life – the pain is still there – half my heart is gone,” said Mr Lee.

The bereft father appealed to learner drivers not to drive unaccompanied: “If learner drivers were in my shoes they could see what effect it has had at first hand. They have no experience so they shouldn’t be driving. And the law states they shouldn’t be driving; gardaí should take them off the road. The laws that are there at the moment are simply not being enforced . . . it’s just like a nod and wink.”

Tim O'Brien

Tim O'Brien

Tim O'Brien is an Irish Times journalist