Tougher penalty points system on the way

Motorists face a raft of new penalty point offences and tougher drink drive and licensing rules under new legislation currently before the Dail.

Transport Minister Leo Varadkar brought the Road Traffic (No.2) Bill before the Dáil this week, which introduces 11 new penalty point offences, creates a new class of Novice driver, and allows testing for intoxicated driving, including drug driving.

The Bill has been drafted following extensive consultation with the Oireachtas Transport Committee and road safety campaign groups.
It is hoped to have the Bill enacted before the end of the year with the provisions coming into force throughout 2014.

Key Provisions of the Bill

Driver Licensing

  • Novice drivers will be defined as drivers in their first two years of full licence, and will have to display an N-Plate;
  • Learner and Novice drivers will be disqualified from driving when they reach 6 penalty points. The threshold for other drivers will remain 12;
  • Learner drivers will have to undergo a certain minimum amount of logged accompanied driving experience (to be defined in Regulations) before taking the driving test. This is in addition to the 12 formal lessons with approved driving instructors already required.

Intoxicated Driving

  • Intoxication Impairment Testing – Gardaí will be empowered to require people to undergo non-technological cognitive tests (e.g. walking in a straight line), and the results will be admissible as evidence;
  • Testing incapacitated drivers following a collision – a new procedure will allow for a specimen of blood to be taken, in a hospital and subject to medical consent, from a driver who is unconscious or incapacitated following a collision;
  • Taking a blood specimen in hospital from a driver incapacitated following a road traffic collision. The permission of the treating doctor will be required before the specimen can be taken and the results of the analysis will be revealed only when the driver can, subsequently, give permission.

Penalty Points

  • 11 new penalty point offences;
  • Penalty points on payment of a fixed charge for an additional 3 offences;
  • Increased penalty points on payment of fixed charge in respect of 17 offences;
  • Increased penalty points on conviction in respect of 15 offences, including:
  1. Speeding will now attract 3 points on payment of fixed charge and 5 on conviction (previously 2 and 4);
  2. Mobile phone use will now attract 3 points on payment of fixed charge and 5 on conviction (previously 2 and 4);
  3. Non-wearing of seatbelts will now attract 3 points on payment of fixed charge and 5 on conviction (previously 2 and 4);
  4. Other offences such as non-display of an NCT certificate, which at present involve a Court appearance, will attract 3 points on payment of fixed charge.