I am aware that there are a large number of people driving on our roads on their 4th, 5th, 6th or subsequent learner permit. While it is legal for a learner permit holder to drive on our roads as long as they are accompanied by a qualified person, I agree there is a need to reduce the number of people driving on recurring learner permits without clear reasons.
In late 2019, the Road Safety Authority (RSA) forwarded proposals to this Department setting out possible measures that could be introduced to encourage learner drivers to sit a driving test. Such measures included, for a fifth or subsequent permit, an increase in the cost of the permit; a decrease in the duration of a permit; a requirement to take mandatory lessons with an approved driving instructor and a requirement to take a driving test before another permit can be issued. The objective is to make it a disincentive to rely long term on a learner permit. These measures took account of the shorter wait times for tests and the increased tester resources that were available to the RSA at the end of 2019.
The proposal was examined and a policy decision was made to amend the law. However, since then, urgent measures introduced to deal with the Covid-19 pandemic have taken precedence and the proposals will need to be re-examined in light of current conditions. The cessation of services in March 2020 and further curtailing of services during subsequent level 5 restrictions in 2020 and 2021 has led to a backlog of people awaiting driving tests. Therefore, it would be prudent to delay any changes to regulations to make it mandatory for long term permit holders to sit a test until the driving test service has stabilised. The position will be kept under review.