Learner Drivers and the Law: Know your Obligations

Many of you will be familiar with the tragic road traffic accident which occurred in County Cork in 2015, involving a learner driver. The learner driver in question failed to yield at a junction and  collided with another vehicle, causing the untimely deaths of a mother and her daughter.
This harrowing incident featured prominently in media reports in recent months, as the learner driver in question was recently handed down a three year suspended prison sentence and disqualified from driving for fifteen years, having pleaded guilty to the offence of dangerous driving causing death.
This article will explore the rules which learner drivers must follow and the potential changes to the current laws which are being considered following this incident.

Current Position

There are strict legal obligations on learner drivers at present, which include the following:

  • A learner driver must be accompanied by a person who has held a full driving licence for a continuous period of two years
  • A learner driver must display “L” Plates on his/her vehicle, front and rear
  • A learner driver may not drive a vehicle drawing a trailer
  • A learner driver may not drive on a motorway
  • A learner driver must complete twelve driving lessons with an instructor as approved by the Road Safety Authority and must hold a provisional licence for at least six months prior to applying to sit the driving test
  • A learner driver who obtained his/her first provisional licence after 1st August 2014 will be disqualified from driving on reaching seven penalty points
  • Drink driving limits for learner drivers are lower than those permitted for fully licensed drivers.

Proposed Changes

Following the incident in Cork, the Minister for Transport has been called upon to impose more severe penalties on errant learner drivers, such as affording the Gardaí the power to impound a vehicle driven by an unaccompanied learner driver and penalising the registered owner of a vehicle who knowingly permits a learner driver to drive that vehicle unaccompanied.
The learner driver at the centre of the tragedy in 2015 admitted that the accident may very well have  not occurred had she been accompanied by a qualified driver on the day in question. The sentencing of the  learner driver has sent a very clear message to all holders of provisional licences to strictly adhere to the rules of the road.

Drive Safely!