Wednesday, 25 April 2018
Road Traffic (Amendment) Bill 2017: Report Stage (Resumed)
Deputy Catherine Murphy has eloquently explained the rationale for the amendment and there is no need to rehearse that. I may be getting ahead of myself. The Minister proposes to repeal section 39 of the Road Traffic Act 2016, which states:
(1) It shall be an offence for the owner of a vehicle to allow their vehicle to be driven by a learner driver driving unaccompanied.
(2) Where a person charged with an offence under this section is the owner of the vehicle, it shall be a good defence to the charge for the person to show that the vehicle was being used without his consent and either that he had taken all reasonable precautions to prevent its being used or that it was being used by his servant acting in contravention of his orders.
(3) Where a person is guilty of an offence under this section and disregarding any disqualification that may be capable of being imposed, such person shall be liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding €2,000 or a term not exceeding six months imprisonment or both such fine and imprisonment.
Am I right in saying the current legislation provides for a penalty for learner drivers driving unaccompanied and that the Minister is proposing as part of the extension of the original Bill to see that existing provision repealed and a new section inserted in its place? I ask the Minister to clarify that when he replies.
How many prosecutions have taken place under the existing legislation? What do the officials who drafted the legislation feel constitute "all reasonable precautions"?
While I do not agree with everything Deputy Mattie McGrath has said, if this legislation is enacted and becomes law, as appears likely, I agree on the urgent need for the Minister to deal with the long waiting list for people awaiting a driving test. I have obtained figures - Deputy Munster cited figures yesterday - showing that in some instances it takes in excess of 28 weeks for someone to get a test. That is certainly not fair and not appropriate. We should consider having a maximum time limit. The RSA must provide a deadline, for example two weeks or four weeks, within which somebody will be offered a test. That will help prevent people falling victim of this new penalty.
While I did not see it, I believe a programme was broadcast the other night showing how some people are manipulating the test process. They are applying for a test in order to extend their provisional licences. They do not turn up for the tests and are getting a bye - for want of a better word - allowing them to extend their licences. That is not right and not fair on the people who are genuinely waiting to have their driving tests conducted because these people do not turn up which is a wasted opportunity. In addition they knowingly continue to drive on the road with a provisional licence without having passed the test. Irrespective of whether we care to admit it, everybody driving a bus, car or motorbike should have passed a test to certify them as fit to drive.
I ask the Minister to clarify if the section 39 to be repealed is being replaced with a new amendment and, if that is the case, we can talk to that amendment as we go through Report Stage.