Belfast Telegraph

Tougher rules for learner drivers

New learner drivers will be forced to take lessons before sitting their test under tough new rules.

The drink-driving limit will also be slashed to zero tolerance and penalty points upped under nine new measures designed to protect inexperienced motorists. The aim is to cut killer behaviour and road deaths among young people on Irish roads.

Noel Brett, of the Road Safety Authority, said the modern driving environment was particularly demanding with increased volumes of traffic, more complex road networks and faster vehicles.

"It is essential that drivers are formally trained to drive safely for life rather than training just to pass a test," he said. "I want to acknowledge the maturity and responsibility which the vast majority of young and inexperienced drivers demonstrate.

"However, driver inexperience is a major risk factor in death and injury collisions on our roads. The facts are that young and inexperienced drivers are more likely to kill or be killed on Irish roads."

A total of 142 people have died so far this year, including four teenagers who were killed in a Co Kerry road crash last week.

The nine measures in the graduated driving licensing system include: 16 hours basic training for motorcyclists from December and 12 hours for car drivers from April 2011 - both with approved driving instructors. New learner drivers will have to keep a log to be signed by an approved instructor and accompanying/supervising driver, which is usually a parent. Drink driving limits for learner and those in their first two years on a full driving licence will be reduced to 20mg/100ml.

Penalty points for specified offences will be increased so the threat of disqualification will impact on risk taking. A standard hazard perception test will be given to address risk taking and perceptions of risk. For the first two years after they have obtained their full licence, drivers will have to display an R (restricted) plate.

Also under the changes, the current driving test will be modernised and the driver theory test will be reconfigured. Sentencing options for driving offences for learner and novice drivers to be expanded.

Mr Brett maintained the measures were proportionate, fair and necessary. "I make a particular plea to parents to increase their involvement in supervising their young adults learning to drive. Whilst the mandatory lessons will not apply to existing learner permit holders I do urge all learner drivers to engage with an approved driving instructor and undertake structured training."

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