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From midnight, it's illegal for car owners to let unaccompanied learners drive their vehicle

“Unaccompanied learner driving is illegal and it is dangerous,” Minister Shane Ross said today.

RSA CEO Moyagh Murdock, Noel Clancy, and Minister Shane Ross
RSA CEO Moyagh Murdock, Noel Clancy, and Minister Shane Ross
Image: Hayley Halpin/TheJournal.ie

MINISTER FOR TRANSPORT Shane Ross has today announced the commencement of the unaccompanied learner driver provisions of the Road Traffic Amendment Act 2018, known as the ‘Clancy Amendment’. 

These new provisions now make it an offence for the owner of a vehicle to knowingly allow an unaccompanied learner or an unlicensed person to drive his or her vehicle. 

They will kick in at midnight tonight. 

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.

Since their deaths, Noel Clancy has been campaigning for a change in the law that would make the car owner and driver equally accountable in the law.

Speaking at the launch of the provisions today, Clancy said: “It is three years tomorrow since my wife Geraldine and my daughter Louise were killed by an unaccompanied learner driver. 

“It is two years and one month to the date since I stood on the steps of Cork Courthouse and called on Minister Ross to implement legislation that will make it an offence to allow a learner driver to drive a car unaccompanied.

I now look forward to this legislation being enforced by the gardaí. I also look forward to compliance of the law by car owners and learner drivers.
Car owners must now realise that if they give their car to an unaccompanied learner driver then they, unlike in the past, will now be accountable in law. 

Long journey

In November 2017, Ross first sought approval for the rule change, however, a number of concerns around a loop-hole were subsequently raised.

The Attorney General’s Office identified a loop-hole in the proposed legislation.

As matters stood, it would have become an offence for the owner of a vehicle to allow an unaccompanied learner driver to drive that vehicle, but not an offence to allow a person who has no driving licence or learner permit to drive the vehicle.

It was then proposed that the government address this by approving the creation of a new offence of a vehicle owner allowing a person who is not the holder of a driving licence or learner permit to drive the vehicle.

The issue was brought to the Oireachtas Transport Committee that month to be debated and has now been rectified.  

Also speaking at the event today was Minister Ross. 

“I hope this new law will have a serious impact on driving culture in this country. 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,” he said. 

Unaccompanied learner driving is illegal and it is dangerous. Once and for all we need to stamp out the entirely false notion that once someone has a learner permit they are free to drive as they wish. 

“A learner permit is not a driving licence.”  

With reporting by Christina Finn

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