Survival Guide

Penalty points for learners and beginner drivers

You may have heard rumblings back in 2014 about changes to the Irish Driver Licensing System and learner/novice plates. But what does it mean to you? This run-down of changes for new drivers should help clear a few things up. 
In August 2014, the RSA introduced the N-plates to the Driver Licensing System, swiftly followed by an introduction of further penalty point offences for learner drivers, effective from December of the same year. As the first two years of driving are considered to be the highest risk, these measures were brought in as a way of reducing risk and encouraging good driving behaviour. Here are the key changes to be aware of:
* A person granted a first full driving licence on or after 1st August 2014 must display N-plates on the vehicle for two years.
* Any period where the person is disqualified or otherwise ceases to hold a licence is not counted as part of these two years as a novice.
* The novice period applies only once, i.e. a person who holds a driving licence for a category of vehicle and who after a period of two years becomes entitled to drive another category, does not become a novice in respect of the new category.
* Non-display of N plates is an offence under traffic law and is punishable by a fine not exceeding €1,000 for a first offence. On becoming a penalty point offence, failure to display an N-plate will carry two penalty points on payment of a fixed charge, or four on conviction by a court.
* A lower threshold of penalty points leading to disqualification will apply to any driver who is granted their first learner permit on or after 1st August 2014 while they drive under a learner permit, and subsequently during the first two years while they drive under their first full driving licence.
Also, more recently, Minister Donohoe introduced a Fixed Charge Notice of €80 and two penalty points for driving with defective or worn tyres (not just for new drivers, but for everyone on the road).
As a learner or novice driver, you can now also earn penalty points for the following offences, which previously carried a fine or court appearance;
* Learner permit holder driving unaccompanied by qualified person (N-plate driver does not count as a qualified driver).
* Failure to display N-Plate or tabard.
* Failure to display L-Plate or tabard.
So for each of the above offences there will be two penalty points on payment of a fixed charge, or four penalty points on conviction in court. A full list of penalty point offences can be obtained from the RSA’s website here. There have been a lot of changes to the laws over the last few years, but remember, if you are a good and safe driver and you practice good driving habits, then you shouldn’t run into any problems.
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