New speed vans lead to surge in penalty points
PENALTY points are now being handed out at breakneck speed.
Almost one in three drivers have been caught out, with the number of points soaring since the introduction of privately operated speed cameras.
The number of drivers getting penalty points has trebled since cameras were activated at the start of the year.
The total on the Road Safety Authority's national register increased by 50,303 between January and the end of last month, compared with 16,433 in the same period in 2010.
Just one in 20 motorists had points seven years ago but this has climbed to nearly one in three. While speeding is the main issue, using a handheld mobile phone while driving accounted for 97,428 cases.
Another 48,521 motorists were hit for not wearing a seat belt, while so-called "amber gamblers" who broke traffic lights accounted for 23,963.
Some 28,325 learner drivers were also given points for a variety of offences.
The majority of those motorists have just two points but even that could result in an in insurance premium hike.
However, only 135 have clocked up the 12 points needed to lose their licence for six months.
Penalty points have been credited by road safety experts with helping the steady fall in deaths on Irish roads.
Speeding accounts for 596,196 penalty point notices since the system was introduced in 2002.
In 2004, when there were 2m vehicles on Irish roads, just 93,000 drivers were caught for point offences, but by the end of July, with 2.4m vehicles on the roads, this had reached 732,710.
The increase coincides with the start up of the Listowel-based GoSafe speed cameras.
The company is not paid on the basis of the number caught speeding but operates under a fixed price contract to carry out 6,000 hours of traffic monitoring every month.
This is believed to be worth €65m over five years.
Meanwhile, double penalty points are on the way this autumn for learner drivers and those on the new system of R restricted driving plates for two years after passing the driving test.