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Shane Ross may consider extending validity for expired learner permits beyond 30 June

Driving tests have been suspended indefinitely since April.

Image: Shutterstock/Simula

Updated May 17th 2020, 6:21 PM

THE MINISTER FOR Transport may further extend the validity period for expired learner permits beyond 30 June, if Covid-19 restrictions continue to prevent driving tests from taking place.

Speaking on RTÉ Radio 1′s This Week this afternoon, Shane Ross said he would not allow provisional licences for learner drivers to be extended while Covid-19 restrictions prevent tests from taking place.

Driving tests have been suspended indefinitely since April and the validity of driving licences and NCT certificates has been extended under the Covid-19 emergency measures.

According to the National Driver Licence Service website, learner permits which expire from 1 March to 30 June have been extended by four months along with other licences.

However, learner permits can be renewed only after the holder books a driving test, with the system to do so currently suspended while tests are not taking place.

Ross told RTÉ Radio that he expected driving tests would not return until most other coronavirus restrictions had been eased, particularly as conducting tests involves close contact between a driver and a tester.

And he initially appeared to rule out extending learner permits until tests resumed because of safety fears.

“It’s absolutely a safety issue, and it would be irresponsible of me to allow people with provisional licences who haven’t actually satisfied the requirements of getting a full licence to go on the road,” he said.

“I’m not going to do that. I’m going to continue with the rules as they are at the moment so that lives should be saved.

“Road deaths this year, very sadly, are actually up despite the fact that there are fewer cars on the roads and I’m looking at ways of reducing them again.”

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A spokeswoman for the minister subsequently clarified that Ross meant that those on learner permits would not be given the same allowances as those on full licences without sitting their full test.

Under current laws, those who hold a learner permit may not drive a vehicle without being accompanied by a driver who has had their full licence for at least two years.

The spokeswoman also indicated that the four-month extension period currently in place for drivers whose permits expire between March and June would have to be considered if tests had not resumed by July.

She added that the department’s decision would be guided by relevant health and safety advice at that time, as was the case with other parts of society.

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