8,663 now on their 10th driver's licence as gardai target learners
GardaI are set to tighten enforcement of learner driver laws after it emerged that tens of thousands appear to be avoiding taking the full test - instead renewing their learner permits repeatedly.
According to gardai and the Road Safety Authority (RSA), 41,316 drivers have renewed their permit for at least the fourth time, with 8,663 of them renewing it 10 times or more.
The current waiting time for a driving test nationally is around just six weeks.
In addition, 83 new driver testers have been recruited since the beginning of 2018 in an effort to convince those previously unwilling to take the test to apply.
Moyagh Murdock, CEO of the RSA, told the Herald that many of the 41,000 drivers on their fourth or subsequent learner permit have not even attempted to take a driving test.
"The reason we have this campaign today is because we are unhappy with the level of people coming forward for the test," she said.
"We see every year on average 10 learner drivers involved in fatal accidents and we want to ensure that the roads are safer places for everyone, including the learner drivers themselves.
"These are not young drivers. These are people in their 30s, 40s, 50s that have been driving for years on their learner permit. We have actually got over 8,000 drivers out there on their tenth learner permit or more. Many of these people haven't even taken a driving test, they haven't even tried to pass one.
"We want to make sure that the message is out there loud and clear that the law is there.
"It is illegal to drive unaccompanied and if you do, you will be detected by the guards and you will face the consequences."
Gardai have already increased the enforcement of learner driver laws and will be further clamping down.
Since new laws were introduced at the beginning of 2018, more than 1,600 cars have been seized from unaccompanied drivers.
In the presence of Garda Chief Superintendent Paul Cleary and Ms Murdock, gardaí set up a checkpoint on the Con Colbert Road, Dublin, to begin the increased enforcing of the learner drivers laws.
Not only can learner drivers be penalised for driving without a fully licensed driver of over two years in their company, but gardai are also clamping down on drivers on a learner permit not displaying L plates.
According to Garda Chief Superintendent Paul Cleary, in a lot of cases learner drivers are removing their plates to avoid detection.
Some 2,311 drivers have been detected not displaying L plates already this year and Mr Cleary said that drivers could be doubly penalised for not displaying their plates and driving unaccompanied.
"The message of today is that we are out there enforcing.
"There are sanctions there which include fines, penalty points and prosecutions. It will also be beneficial to them financially because they will have a lowered insurance bill."
Mr Cleary noted that car owners can also be prosecuted for knowingly lending a vehicle to an unaccompanied learner driver, potentially receiving two penalty points and a fine of up to €2,000.