A raw deal for motorists


Sir, – News that there are 83,000 people waiting for their driving tests, and that the pass rate in Donegal is near 80 per cent, while that of Gorey in Co Wexford is around 30 per cent, is sad but unsurprising (News, August 30th).

In this major European capital, it is not possible to apply for one’s licence or learner’s permit in the city centre. The National Driving Licence Service centres are in the suburbs of Leopardstown, Citywest, Santry and – strangely – nearby Clarehall. For working people, this can necessitate a morning off work and a trip on public transport. Once there, a long wait in the drop-in queue gives one plenty of time to ponder the fact that appointments are booked up several weeks in advance, or unavailable entirely.

Of these four centres only Santry overlaps with the four driving theory test offices, one of which is on Custom House Dock.

For many people it is convenient and environmentally friendly to do without a car and hire from on-street car-sharing schemes or traditional car-hire companies on the few occasions in the year when one is required. However, for some reason these all require drivers to have held a full licence for two years and most won’t do business with people until they reach their mid-twenties. Instead, a newly qualified driver hopes for the use of an amenable parent’s car, or goes into the market for something affordable – unless they’re a young tourist, in which case one can forget about that once-in-a-lifetime driving holiday promoted by Tourism Ireland.

Once the car-search begins and one accepts the reality of paying an insurance company several times the cost of the vehicle for a year’s cover, another irritation is introduced. Few insurers will provide cover for a car over 15 or 20 years old, even if it might be in showroom condition with a handful of miles on the clock, with the same emissions and fuel efficiency as many cars still on the road, and given the thumbs-up by the NCT people.

One looks elsewhere for an insurable car, which will be priced accordingly. At this stage, chances are that bills for lessons, driving licence fees, car, tax, insurance, NCT and fuel have already made the emissions performance of one’s first car a luxury available only to those with disposable income. With Ireland’s emissions targets in tatters, we are scrapping good vehicles, incentivising ownership over rental, and pricing low-emission cars out of the reach of young drivers.

Much of this could be put up with if driving were a hobby pastime like flying or shooting. But the glory days of motoring are long gone and most people drive without pleasure for work, or to schools and workplaces that the planning system placed out of reach of their homes.

Funnily enough, annoying and delaying people and adding to their cost of living probably does contribute to safety as it irritates people off the roads. But a more mature approach by everyone involved would be good for the economy, the environment and quality of life – without damaging road safety efforts that deserve everyone’s full support. – Yours, etc,



Dublin 2.