The Irish News view on new rules for learner and newly-qualified drivers

We welcome the plans but want to see things move at a quicker pace

Examiners said the Government’s plans pose ‘significant’ safety risks
A learner driver Examiners said the Government’s plans pose ‘significant’ safety risks (Steve Parsons/PA)

AS we all too often find, change comes dropping slowly in these parts.

A mere eight years after legislation was passed, stricter new rules for learner and newly-qualified drivers have been given the green light.

The new scheme will insist on learners spending a minimum of six months training as well as requiring them to keep a logbook.

Additionally, the 45mph speed limit for those learning to drive would be removed and the option for them to train on motorways would be opened up.

It’s part of a range of measures which have been years in the making at this point, coming on the back of the 2016 Road Traffic Act which provided a statutory framework for the Graduated Driver Licensing scheme.

The whole thinking behind this in the first place was to reduce the number of people killed or badly injured in collisions where new drivers were at fault.

There can be nobody who would not want to see that particular problem tackled, in any way it can be.

We have seen far too frequently how fragile life can be on our roads so any measures which seek to address that are to be welcomed.

In the four years since that consultation period ended at the start of 2018, 22% of fatal or serious crashes were due to drivers aged between 17 and 23.

More than 150 people were killed in that period. That is 150 lives shattered, 150 homes that will never be the same again.

Just last week, of course, four more young people died in a collision outside Armagh city and it seems we’re never too far away from reading about the horrors of what can happen on our roads.

And, sadly, the tragedies aren’t confined to the north. As we reported yesterday, the number of deaths on the Republic’s roads has jumped a frightening 38% on last year.

Gardai detected more than 2,600 drivers for speeding offences over the Easter weekend alone with 36 people arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence of an intoxicant.

The roads across Ireland have already claimed far too many lives and there can be nobody among us who wishes to see that continue.

While we welcome the progress with finally getting this new scheme to the point of implementation, we also note how the timeline for introducing these new rules has not yet been established.

Infrastructure Minister John O’Dowd is tasked with driving this forward and it’s encouraging that movement is now taking place and that is to his credit.

We certainly can’t afford to wait anywhere near the eight years it has taken to get this far so this is one time when speeding is required.