Pretty soon. I am optimistic that it will not be too long.
There has not been an improvement in the number of disqualified drivers surrendering their licences to the Road Safety Authority during the first two quarters of 2019. Of the drivers with a court disqualification, the surrender rate is between 18% and 20%. Of the number of drivers with penalty point disqualifications, the surrender rate is 35%.
The requirement for a disqualified driver to surrender his or her licence is set out in the Road Traffic (Licensing of Drivers) Regulations 2006. Failure to comply with the requirement to surrender the licence is an offence in itself and enforcement of the law is a matter for An Garda Síochána.
I do not believe that the non-return of licences, unacceptable and illegal though it is, is the central issue. The number of disqualified drivers not returning their licences is not a proxy for the number of people who drive while disqualified. Some people will return their licences and still drive, others will not return their licences but will not drive. Therefore awareness of the role of the RSA is not the issue.
What we need to achieve compliance with the law is strong enforcement of the law against people driving while disqualified. In this context, the crucial legislative step was taken in the Road Traffic Act 2014, which empowered An Garda Síochána to arrest a person where it has reason to believe the person is driving while disqualified. The penalty for driving while disqualified is a fine of up to a maximum of €5,000 or a prison term of up to six months or both. The penalty for non-return of a driving licence is the general penalty under the Road Traffic Acts, namely, a fine of up to €1,000 for a first offence, up to €2,000 for a second offence, and up to €2,000 or up to three months in prison or both for a third or subsequent offence in a 12-month period.
I am aware that Garda authorities are working in order that details of specific drivers who are disqualified are readily available to members of the Garda on the ground. I understand that an initiative to that effect will be rolled out under the Garda modernisation and renewal programme 2016-2021. That programme sets out a pathway so that each member of the Garda has the technical tools that will give him or her direct access to all the information he or she needs as he or she interacts with the public on the ground.