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Driver Test

Dáil Éireann Debate, Wednesday - 3 June 2020

Wednesday, 3 June 2020

Questions (883)

Pat Buckley

Question:

883. Deputy Pat Buckley asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport if he will address a matter raised in correspondence from a person (details supplied) regarding driver tests; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8495/20]

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Written answers (Question to Transport)

It must be understood that a learner permit is not a licence, but a permit to allow a person to drive while learning. The purpose of the driving test is to set out the minimum level of knowledge, skill and competency that a learner must demonstrate in order to become a fully licensed driver. Until a learner can meet this standard and pass this test, they are not safe to take to our roads without appropriate supervision. 

I would also like to point out that the current pass rate for driving tests nationally stands at 52% for 2019, so having fulfilled all of the driving lesson requirements does not mean that an individual meets the standard required to pass the test. 

Studies have repeatedly shown that unaccompanied learner drivers are markedly more likely to be involved in fatal collisions.  For that reason, there can be no exceptions to the current laws in force around learner drivers.  Regrettably, there has been an increase in fatalities on our roads so far in 2020, and we must not relax the standards required of our drivers before being awarded a driving licence, even in the case of frontline workers.  Indeed, it has never been more important to protect the safety of our frontline workers.

An unaccompanied learner driver who is stopped by an Garda Síochána may face penalty points, a fixed charge, seizure of the vehicle and possible prosecution.

Due to the closure of services provided by the Road Safety Authority (RSA) as a result of the Covid-19 outbreak, I took measures to extend the validity of a number of documents, including the learner permit.  Any learner permits which were due to expire from 1 March 2020 to 30 June 2020 inclusive have had their period of validity extended by 4 months. If it is the case that the NDLS centres have not re-opened before the extension period expires, the possibility of a further extension will be examined.

The RSA is currently working, in consultation with my Department, on plans for the resumption of the range of services and functions for which it is responsible, following the publication of the Government roadmap and, more recently, the National Return to Work Safely Protocol as agreed by employer and trade union representatives.

The resumption of driver testing will be of particular concern to learner drivers.  As you will appreciate, the driving test raises particular problems in terms of compliance with the Protocol and in particular social distancing rules, as it requires the driver tester and the candidate to be within a two metre distance continuously for a period in excess of 20 minutes, in a very confined space which is not in itself a workplace under the control of the RSA.

I appreciate that the inability to carry out driving tests at this time is among the many difficulties that we all are having to endure at this time, for those awaiting such tests.  On a very preliminary appraisal of the Protocol, car driving tests may have to be the last of the statutory functions, for which the RSA is responsible, to recommence in or after Phase 5 of the Government's roadmap.

Dates for the resumption of the RSA's services, and any special arrangements which will need to be put into place to allow for the provision of these services, will be determined in consultation with the relevant health authorities.

The safety of the public is of paramount importance at this time, whether from infection or from deaths and injuries on the road, and in this as in all aspects of the Covid-19 crisis, my Department will be guided by NPHET and national experts.

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