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Home page News and Specials New penalty points for learner drivers.

LEARNER drivers are to get penalty points for the first time if they're caught unaccompanied by a qualified motorist.

The new crackdown on L-drivers is contained in a ministerial directive due to be signed shortly by Transport Minister Leo Varadkar.


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It follows growing concern over the number of unaccompanied learner drivers involved in fatal crashes over the past few months.

A Department of Transport spokesman said yesterday that Mr Varadkar would be enacting a provision in the 2010 Road Traffic Act applying penalty points to the offence of learner motorists driving unaccompanied by a qualified person in the near future. Currently, unaccompanied learners are given a caution and fine of up to €1,000.

Under the new system, they will get one penalty point and a fine of €80, and three if they appeal and lose in the district court where they will also face a fine of up to €1,000.

A total of 45 unaccompanied learner drivers were involved in fatal crashes over the past 40 months, while a further 74 were involved in collisions resulting in serious injuries in the same period.

The fatalities involving unaccompanied drivers have accounted for one out of every 15 deaths on the roads since January 2009.

Since then, 700 people died, including drivers, passengers, cyclists, motorcyclists and pedestrians.

Car drivers with a learner permit must be accompanied at all times and be under the supervision of someone with a driving licence for a car.

That person must have had the driving licence for at least two years.

This removed the previous loophole, which allowed a person on a second provisional licence to drive unaccompanied.

Permit

New laws also on the way involve learner permit drivers being put off the road for reaching six penalty points -- half the level required on a full licence.

The department spokesman said mr Varadkar was considering further tightening up the penalty points regime with regard to learner drivers.

Possibilities include doubling the number of penalty points for key offences, or else reducing the number of points that a learner or novice driver (a person who has held a full licence for less than two years) can accumulate before they are disqualified.

Penalty points applied to a learner permit are carried forward if a person passes the driving test and gets a full licence.

Prosecutions against unaccompanied learner drivers have been traditionally rare, with gardai instead giving young L-drivers a "ticking off".

However, two crackdowns in March and April resulted in almost 950 motorists being caught driving unaccompanied or without displaying L plates.

Some 279 will be prosecuted in the courts, facing fines of up to €1,000 for a first offence.

While it is an offence for a learner driver not to have L plates displayed, it is understood that this will not incur penalty points.

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