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New Road Traffic Bill includes specific ban on texting while driving

The bill also introduces a Novice Driver category for people in their first two years after qualification.

Image: George Fairbairn via Shutterstock

NEW ROAD SAFETY measures are among a range of provisions in the Road Traffic Bill which was signed off on by Cabinet today. The bill includes new and higher penalty points on key offences and a specific ban on texting while driving.

Ireland is currently ranked sixth in the EU for road safety and Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport said he wants us to become the safest country in Europe.

“Ireland has made huge strides in reducing road deaths, under successive governments,” he said today. “However, we can never become complacent about road safety.”

The new bill will introduce a ‘Graduated Driver Licensing System’ which includes a new catagory of Novice Driver for people in their first two years after qualification. This will be denotaed by ‘N’ plates on vehicles.

Novice and learner drivers will be subject to a new, lower threshold of six penalty points for automatic disqualification, rather than the normal 12. The lower alcohol limits of 20mg (‘virtual zero’) already applies to L and N plate drivers, as well as professional drivers.

Penalty points

The Penalty Points system is also being adjusted in light of a review conducted earlier this year. Changes include:

  • Learner drivers who are driving without a qualified driver will face penalty points for the first time with 2 penalty points applying (4 on conviction);
  • Not displaying L or N plates will face penalty points for the first time, with 2 penalty points applying (4 on conviction);
  • Penalty points for mobile phone use, including the new provision related to texting, will rise from 2 to 3 points (5 on conviction);
  • Points for speeding will rise from 2 to 3 points (5 on conviction) –contingent on the conclusion of the current review of speed limits;
  • The penalty for not wearing a seatbelt will rise from 2 to 3 points (5 on conviction).

Tests

The bill will also allow for a blood sample to be taken from an unconscious driver following a serious road traffic collision, and tested when they give their consent.

Non-technological tests for impaired driving – such as walking a straight line, pupil dilation etc – will in future be usable as evidence in court. This test can be used to detect drug driving.

It will also be possible for the first time to prohibit the driving of a vehicle which has been deemed unroadworthy by the NCT.

Under the new bill there will also be enabling legislation to allow local authorities to provide parking and charging bayes for electric vehicles and for car clubs.

Legal drafting of the bill will now take place and it is expected it will be brought before the Oireachtas in early 2013.

Read: Shatter: Allegations on penalty points concern only ‘small minority’ of cases>

Read: Drivers advised on how to share the road with emergency service vehicles>

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