Fewer than one in 10 learner drivers surrendered their licences to the Road Safety Authority (RSA) following disqualification by the courts over the past six years, it has emerged.
Figures from the RSA show that of 11,351 learner drivers disqualified by the courts from 2016 to November this year, just 722, or 6.36 per cent, handed in their permit.
The figures were slightly higher for learners disqualified through penalty points. Some 3,108 were disqualified over the same six-year period when they hit seven points, with 1,225 – or 39.4 per cent – surrendering their permits. Of 473 learners disqualified through fixed penalty notices a total of 232, or 49.04 per cent, handed in their permits.
Overall, 14.59 per cent of the total of 14,932 learners disqualified surrendered their licence.
The figures were released to Social Democrats joint leader Catherine Murphy by the RSA following a parliamentary question to the Minister for Transport. Ms Murphy said “the idea that you can find a way not to surrender your licence or permit after disqualification is absolutely unacceptable”.
Susan Gray, of road safety campaign group Parc, said “there is absolutely no political will to fix these huge problems that we in Parc have brought to the attention of many transport ministers over the years and to the RSA”.
“Shame on the powers that be,” said Ms Gray whose husband Steve was killed on St Stephen’s night in Donegal in 2004 by an unaccompanied learner.
She noted the RSA “continues to renew learner permits time and time again” without the need for a learner to ever actually sit the driving test. All a learner has to do to renew a permit is send proof that they have applied for the test and pay the €85 fee, she said.
She said that if the driver number is not recorded in court, then the details of the disqualification cannot be inputted into the National Vehicle and Driver File database, containing details of 2.5 million registered vehicles and their owners. Gardaí rely on this information but at roadside checkpoints they do not have instant access to the driver database and cannot verify the status of a licence on the spot, Ms Gray said.
Ms Murphy said “it doesn’t matter if there is a court disqualification or one through fixed penalty notices or penalty points. If somebody is disqualified, they shouldn’t have a licence.”
The Kildare North TD said it was very difficult to see how someone disqualified from driving could have insurance. “They are likely to be driving around without a valid permit or valid insurance. I don’t understand why our system doesn’t tie the two things together,” she said. “The whole idea of having driving licences and learner permits is so you’d have a regime that makes our roads safe”.