Tuesday, April 18, 2006

The problem on Irish roads - Part 1

Transport minister Martin Cullen hit the nail on the head over the weekend when he stated that it was too easy to get a driving licence and too difficult to lose it. As the carnage on our roads continues the Minister and uncle Gaybo face the very difficult task of tackling the 'Feck the rest of ye, I'll do what I want' attitude that exists amongst Irish drivers at the moment.

In this post I will look at how easy it is to get a licence in Ireland and the adequacy of our driving test. In a later post I will examine how easy it is to lose your licence.

Currently the average waiting period for sitting your driving test is 43.3 weeks, with the highest waiting period being 60 weeks in Raheny in Dublin. The average pass rate across the country is 53.3%. As has already been stated in the media, this waiting list situation needs to be addressed urgently, and some possible solutions have also been discussed.

Despite these waiting lists and the 53.3% average pass rate, I agree with the Minister, it is too easy to get a licence and indeed to drive on our roads. The driving test as it is at the moment is not a stern enough test of driver competence. Think about what is considered an adequate test of driver competence. A fifteen minute run around a city or residential area at speeds no greater than 60kmph, where the driver is asked to do a three point turn, a hill start and reverse around the corner.

Why aren't drivers taken onto motorways? Learner drivers are not allowed to drive on motorways, and for good reason, so why not test drivers on a motorway to see if the are capable of handling themselves on one. Why aren't drivers tested on country roads? That's where the majority of fatal accidents occur and the skills needed to drive country roads are different from those in a residential area. Finally, why are our potential full-licence drivers not tested driving at night? Driving at night is a different task to driving during the day.

Next, why is it that a person can fail the driving test, and then proceed to get into their car and drive home? Indeed why can I go get a provisional licence, then buy a car and start driving without any need to ever get myself a driving lesson? Sure I have to sit a theory test, but having the skills to drive a car safely is fundamentally different from knowing how to identify a clearway.

Here's what I suggest...

We need to educate our drivers, before they start driving on the roads. A friend of mine suggested targeting the schools, introducing some kind of drivers-ed scheme where the kids are learnt the fundamentals of driving before they are old enough to get a provisional licence. You could also introduce such schemes in the community for older individuals starting to drive. Make participation in such a scheme compulsory before someone can get a provisional licence, as a sort of partner to the theory test. Thus we can be sure that Jimmy has some experience when he gets his 2 litre turbo from Daddy when he turns 17.

Next, if you fail your driving test, you should not be allowed to drive home immediately after. O.k that's a bit harsh. How about extending the rule where by drivers on their first provisional are not allowed to drive without the presence of a fully qualified driver? Thus if you fail your test, you will require the presence of a fully qualified driver and you will be required to take at least 5 lessons with a professional instructor before being allowed to drive on your own again.

Finally and fundamentally the driving test needs to be overhauled so that it more accurately reflects the challenges facing our motorists on Irish roads today. I would also advocate drivers having to resit their tests every 10-15 years.

Now I know that you're probably sitting there thinking 'The waiting list for driving tests are long enough as it is' or 'How do plan to fund these reforms?' I agree and can't say that I have the answers to that. Nonetheless, I use these examples merely as a tool to illustrate the problems that exist and the need for these problems to be tackled in some way.

Coming soon...a look at how easy it is to lose your driving licence on Irish roads and what can be done about it.


Anonymous said...

Is it still true that learner drivers can pilot a 'horseless carriage' unaccompanied in the Republic?

Simon said...

on their second provesional yes. You get your second after you have had your first for 2 years. It is very ridicules

Eamonn said...

I've been accused of many things in my day...but never has it been implied that I'm nothing but a subsidiary schizophrenic persona

Simon said...

no Jo we are all seperate people. :)

Anonymous said...

While there are changes needed to the Driving test thats not hwat is the major cause of accidents. The cause is when drivers start ignoring the signs, ie driving on or above the speed limit on country roads, driving on wet roads on or above the speed limit, driving at night on or above the speed limit.

Eamonn said...

Totally agree MacDara, that's coming in Part 2. But i still believe you need a good foundation and a sterner test of drivers before they are deemed competent to be on the road in the first place is important.

Simon said...

I know what your saying macdara but I think tuathal's point is that people who do that and break the rules of the rule have passed the driving test.

Anonymous said...

The problem is that the Irish Govt hasn't yet caught up with the 21st century, there are probably 3 times as many cars on the roads today as there was 10 years ago, but the Govt has invested a fraction of the money needed to bring the road infrastructure up to acceptable levels to cope with the traffic. Instead they bring in more and more penalty points and unreasonable speed limits and send out more and more gardai to enforce these.

Anonymous said...

I agree with the sentiments expressed and currently there are some signs of stirring by the Minister of Transport in the realm of the Tuition Profession.
For far too long there have been unregulated and untrained persons operating as "Driving Instructors".
The R.S.A. has been charged with the responsibility of setting up a Driving Instructor Register which is due to assess contributions from all interested parties within the next few days before being passed into Law for a deadline of June 2007.
When the teachers can teach properly, which will include country, nighttime and simulated Motorway driving, then we will begin to improve the standards of the Novice Driver and by extension, the reduction of the accident rates on Irish roads.