I must say I really felt for all those people out there who were trapped between a rock and a hard place when the new rules for learner drivers came in a few months ago.
There was a mad scraMble to get their driving test done and past before the Government introduced the new rules, which meant learner drivers would be fined up to €1,000 if caught driving without a fully licensed driver with them.
I’m not saying the new rules were wrong, or that learner drivers should be allowed on the roads on their own, but it definitely made things a lot more difficult for drivers, and proved a nice little earner for the Government.
Since July, when the new rules were introduced, Gardai have filed 1,400 offences. Most offenders were caught driving unaccompanied and failing to display 'L' plates. Both offences carry fines of up to €1,000.
The Road Safety Authority has welcomed the figures saying it is clear that new rules were being enforced. Over 1,000 people caught in two months not obeying the new rules? For once the Gardai are doing their job. You gotta crack down on those drivers who just haven’t managed to get a driving test in yet.
I get that learner drivers can be a bit dangerous. We’ve all been a learner at one stage or another. But I think the way the new rules were introduced was unfair. They left a lot of people who depend heavily on their cars high and dry. With waiting times for driving tests ridiculously long, and an urgent need for more driving instructors, you can’t blame a person for going about with L plates.
Unless a learner driver is accompanied by the holder of a full licence of two years they can’t drive anywhere. But this is Ireland. And more importantly this is rural Ireland. We’ve no public transport system at all. If your place of work and other amenities aren’t within walking distance you’re lost.
If the Government and the NRA are going to put a total clamp down on learner drivers they have to do something else to facilitate the drivers affected. I know some transition year students get driving lessons, and this is good. You should learn how to drive as soon as you turn 17, and not wait until you’re 24 or something!
But for years there was the attitude that as long as you had your provisional licence you were sorted. That’s no longer the case.
The only choice a learner driver has now is to jam as many lessons in as they can, do the test, and pass. Otherwise they face the possibility of being fined €1,000. That or pay someone who has had their full licence for two years to go everywhere with them!