New rule lets motorists avoid court if they pay triple the fine

Tánaiste expects payment rates to increase from 73 per cent

The offender availing of the third payment option will also avoid more penalty points than those issued under the original notice.  Photograph: Cyril Byrne

The offender availing of the third payment option will also avoid more penalty points than those issued under the original notice. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

 

Motorists have been given a third chance to pay fines for motoring offences before they are brought to court in a new measure that came into effect on Thursday.

Motorists who have failed to pay a fixed penalty notice within 28 days or to pay the 50 per cent higher charge after a further 28 days will now receive a third payment notice along with a court summons. It allows court proceedings to be dropped if they pay double the increased fine, not more than seven days before the scheduled hearing.

The offender availing of the third payment option will also avoid more penalty points than those issued under the original notice.

If an original fine is €80, with the second notice it increases to €120 and would become €240 through the third payment option, triple the original fine.

Payments have been made for 73 per cent of fixed penalty notices issued last year to motorists for road traffic offences, Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald said on Wednesday. Ms Fitzgerald said the figure represented a “high payment rate and a high level of acceptance of penalty points in the case of penalty point offences”. However, she expects the rate to increase further this year when the “third payment option” starts operation from Thursday.

Ms Fitzgerald told Independent TD Tommy Broughan in reply to a parliamentary question about the working group established to review the summons serving process, that its recommendations on short- and medium-term goals had been implemented. These included reporting the number of summonses received, served and unserved during each calendar month.

Rate of summonses

The implementation of recommendations has resulted in the rate of summonses successfully served rising from 57 per cent in 2014 to 69 per cent in the first half of 2016, Ms Fitzgerald said.

The “third payment option” was one of the issues the Tánaiste, Minister for Transport Shane Ross and Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Paschal Donohoe worked on.

Mr Ross subsequently brought the payment option in as part of the Road Traffic Bill which also allows gardaí to test motorists suspected of being under the influence of cocaine, cannabis or heroin. Testing for drugs driving has commenced.

When the legislation was introduced in the Oireachtas Mr Ross said it would “put an end to cases of people turning up in court and claiming they never received a fixed-charge notice”.

Fixed-term notices are sent by regular post and are not registered. Many drivers state in court that they never received the penalty points notice. The third payment notice will now be sent by registered post with the summons and will give motorists the option of either paying the doubled fine or going to court.