Ireland’s penalty points system is undoubtedly working and enjoys broad support, but motorists who have been caught are inclined to feel hard done by. In a poll of 4,000 motorists who had received penalty points at least once nearly half felt aggrieved to some extent.
Some 46 per cent of respondents felt the circumstances in which they had received penalty points were fair, but a similar number, 48 per cent had a gripe of some sort about the incident.
“Motorists know the importance of penalty points and have overwhelmingly supported them,” says director of policy Conor Faughnan. “But at the same time nobody likes to receive them. A lot of people complained that while they may have been speeding so were the cars in front of and behind them, and they are inclined to feel harshly treated because they were the ones who were stopped.”
Nevertheless the reasons for supporting the penalty points system are clear, according to the AA. Roughly a third of all drivers, 766,000, currently have at least one penalty point. But less than three per cent of those drivers, 22,000, have six or more points.
“This is a clear indication that once a driver receives points they become much more inclined to be careful,” says Faughnan. “That is what you would want to see.”
The AA does have serious concerns about inappropriately set speed limits. In many cases drivers complained that they received penalty points for slightly exceeding a speed limit that was far too low for the road in question.
“We have a major problem with badly set limits in almost every county in the country,” says Faughnan. “Some are too low, like the bizarre 80kph limit on the N4 westbound from Dublin. Others are too high, like the country boreens with 80kph signs and grass growing up the middle. These clear errors bring the whole system into disrepute.”
The AA is asking all drivers to report bad speed limits in all locations directly to the motoring organisation’s public affairs department at [email protected]. The AA is compiling a comprehensive database of these ‘rogue limits’ and it will be working with the Department of Transport and the relevant local authorities to correct them.
The AA is also drawing attention to the illegal practice of swopping penalty points.
While not a huge percentage, two per cent of the motorists polled by AA Motor Insurance indicated they have been asked by another driver, typically a close friend or family member, to accept penalty points on their behalf.
Of this group, 28 people said they had obliged for various reasons, including preventing that person from being disqualified from driving, helping them to avoid the knock-on effects it would have on their livelihood, or to simply help them to avoid increased motor insurance premiums.
“While you might think you’re doing someone a good turn by taking someone else’s penalty points, not only are you lying to the Gardaí, you’re also breaking the law,” says Faughnan.
The AA is also reminding motorists of their obligation to disclose all details of penalty points when taking out motor insurance. It also advises drivers who pick up penalty points between renewals to notify their insurance provider straight away.