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Vehicles seized from unaccompanied learner drivers over 5,000 times since Clancy Amendment enacted

The Clancy Amendment was introduced following a campaign from Noel Clancy, whose wife and daughter were killed in a road accident.

File photo. Garda checkpoint.
File photo. Garda checkpoint.
Image: @GardaTraffic/Rollingnews.ie

AN GARDA SÍOCHÁNA has seized vehicles on over 5,000 occasions in the past two years under the provisions of the Clancy Amendment, newly released figures have shown. 

The road traffic laws – which make it an offence for the owner of a vehicle to knowingly  allow an unaccompanied learner or an unlicenced person to drive their vehicle – were enacted in late December 2018 following a sustained campaign sparked by Corkman Noel Clancy. 

The provisions also extend the power of detention under section 41 of the Road Traffic Act 1994 to allow the Garda Síochána to detain a vehicle being driven, in the garda’s opinion, by an unaccompanied learner.

Noel Clancy’s wife, Geraldine Clancy (58) and his daughter, Louise (22), and were tragically killed in an accident involving an unaccompanied learner driver in December 2015.

The driver, Susan Gleeson, was subsequently given a three-year suspended sentence.

RSA 861 Noel Clancy (centre) campaigned for the introduction of the legislation. Source: Sam Boal/Rollingnews.ie

Speaking when the laws came into effect in December 2018, then-Minister for Transport Shane Ross said he hoped it would have a “serious impact on driving culture in this country”. 

He said: “I hope that vehicle owners will act responsibly when allowing learners to drive their vehicles, be those learners sons and daughters, friends, or other family members. Unaccompanied learner driving is illegal and it is dangerous.”

The new laws were subsequently featured in an advertisement which told Noel Clancy’s story. In the ad, Clancy revisits the scene of the accident and describes how his wife and daughter were killed, and recalls a conversation he had with an undertaker about their burial.

“They were trapped upside down, screaming for their lives as they drowned in the water,” he says, adding that he did not realise Geraldine or Lousie were involved in the accident when he happened to arrive on the scene.

The advert received a number of complaints but the Road Safety Authority said it would be failing in its duties if it discontinued an advert in which learner motorists are warned about the dangers of driving alone. 

In figures released to Social Democrat TD Catherine Murphy via parliamentary question, Minister for Justice Helen McEntee provided figures on the number of times vehicles have been seized to date under the Clancy Amendment. 

In 2019, gardaí seized vehicles on 2,513 occasions.

So far this year, there have been an extra 60 vehicles a month on average seized by gardaí under the Clancy Amendment. 

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In the 10 months to 31 October 2020, vehicles were seized by gardaí under these laws on 2,701 occasions. 

Minister McEntee also furnished stats on the number of fixed charge notices issued for learner drivers who drove unaccompanied by a qualified driver. 

A learner driver who is detected driving unaccompanied faces an €80 fine and two penalty points if paid within 28 days, a €120 fine and two penalty points if paid within the next 28 days and €120 and four penalty points if convicted in court.

In 2019, 6,145 such fixed charge notices were issued to learners driving unaccompanied.

In the first 10 months of this year, a further 5,357 fixed charge notices were issued. 

In a statement to TheJournal.ie, a garda spokesperson confirmed that when vehicles are seized, “where the owner of the vehicle is the holder of a full driving license and the vehicle is compliant with all other Road Traffic requirement, the vehicle is returned to the owner on payment of the appropriate towing and storage fees”.

With reporting from Christina Finn, Stephen McDermott

About the author:

Sean Murray

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