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Almost 90% of banned drivers failing to surrender licences

Road safety group Parc seeking changes to ‘ridiculous’ system of posting licences to Cork

The vast majority of motorists banned from driving are still not surrendering their driving licences, with compliance rates as low as 11 per cent, according to the latest data.

Figures from the Road Safety Authority show 75,783 drivers were disqualified from driving between 2016 and 2022. A total of 30,703 of these had no licence at all. Some 45,080 had a driving licence, but just 12.338 of these surrendered their licence as they are legally obliged to do.

The figures show 32,692 drivers did not comply with their legal obligations – some 73 per cent of those who had been banned. This indicates an overall compliance rate of just 27 per cent.

The figures were supplied by the Road Safety Authority to Catherine Murphy TD in response to a parliamentary question. They include the numbers of people who were banned from driving automatically on reaching 12 penalty points on their licences, and those motorists who were banned from driving by the courts.


However, an analysis of the figures undertaken by the road safety group Parc, which separates the court bans from the penalty point bans, shows almost nine out of 10 drivers banned by the courts are ignoring the legal requirement to surrender their licence.

The Parc analysis shows that over the period 2016 to 2022, the courts banned 59,476 drivers. A total of 29,927 of these were said to not have an Irish licence. The number with an Irish licence was 29,549. Yet just 5,221 – or 18 per cent – surrendered their licence as required.

In terms of individual years over the period, the analysis by Parc shows that the percentage who surrendered their licences after a court ban in 2016 was 21 per cent, rising to 25 per cent in 2017. It then fell consistently until 2022, when the percentage hit just 11 per cent.

Parc has now called for changes to the system, which requires disqualified drivers to return their licence or learner permit to a PO box in Cork.

“We want to see the revoking of the ridiculous law whereby disqualified drivers are requested to return their licence/learner permit to the RSA’s PO Box in Cork and an effective means put in its place,” Susan Gray of Parc said.

“It is an offence not to surrender your licence or permit, which carries a maximum fine of €1,000 on first conviction and up to €2,000 on a second or further conviction and we await a reply to the question of how many disqualified drivers have been convicted of this offence,” she said.

In 2018 then RSA chief executive Moya Murdoch told the Oireachtas Committee on Transport that “to prosecute a driver successfully for failure to surrender a licence having been disqualified, the RSA would most likely have to have a representative in court alongside the Garda to give evidence on behalf of the RSA on the failure to surrender the licence. The RSA would need significant resources to do that. The Garda would also need significant resources to prosecute the thousands of cases of failure to surrender licences.”

The following year the RSA said surrendering a drivers’ licence was no guarantee that drivers would stay off the roads. It added about 50 per cent of banned drivers either never had a valid licence or their licence had expired. It believed the smart tablet devices being distributed to gardaí would enable them instantly identify those drivers who should not be behind the wheel.

However, Parc said this has clearly not been effective and it was time for a new system to be put in place.

Tim O'Brien

Tim O'Brien

Tim O'Brien is an Irish Times journalist