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90% of Irish motorists disqualified by a court in 2020 have not surrendered their licences

The figure was revealed in response to a Parliamentary Question last month.

Image: Leah Farrell/RollingNews.ie

MORE THAN FIVE out of every six drivers who were disqualified from driving in 2020 did not surrender their licence to the authorities as required by law.

Figures provided by Minister of State for International and Road Transport and Logistics Hildegarde Naughton show that just 1,021 motorists out of 6,846 who were disqualified up to 15 November surrendered their licence to the Road Safety Authority (RSA).

It means that just under 15% of drivers who were disqualified in 2020 have handed over their licences.

Under the Road Traffic Acts, drivers can be disqualified in one of two ways: by court order, or by gathering too many penalty points.

Drivers are required to surrender their licence to the National Driver Licence Service within ten to 14 days of being ordered to stop driving. 

The enforcement of disqualification is shared between the RSA, the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport, the Courts Service and gardaí.

It is an offence for driver not to surrender their licence, and a person can be fined €1,000 on their first conviction and up to €2,000 on their second or further conviction for not doing so.

The vast majority of those disqualified this year – 5,510 motorists – were banned following a court order, but just 10% of those (550 motorists) surrendered their licence by mid-November.

Another 1,336 drivers were banned after reaching the maximum permitted number of penalty points, with 471 of those – just over one in three – surrendering their licence.

Although the overall figure for 2020 has increased when compared with the same figure for 2019, when fewer than one in eight motorists surrendered their licence, levels in recent years have fallen from a peak of 19% in 2015.

Road safety campaigners hit out at the latest figures, provided as a response to a Parliamentary Question, and called on the RSA to address the issue as a matter of urgency.

PARC road safety group chairperson, Susan Gray, described the system by which drivers surrender their licences as a “farce”.

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“The system is obviously not working,” she said. 

“There’ll always be a minority for whom it doesn’t matter if they’re disqualified or not, they’re just going to keep driving. But thousands of people not surrendering their licences is a lot of people.”

In a statement, a spokesperson for the Road Safety Authority acknowledged that licence surrender rates are low, but noted that it was important to ensure that disqualified drivers do not continue to drive.

“Gardaí at the side of the road have access to licence data on their Mobility App and can instantly see if a person is disqualified or not,” the spokesperson said.

“This is a substantial enhancement to their enforcement capability to ensure that drivers who are disqualified do not drive.”

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