Increased penalty points on the way

Irish Government LogoThe Government has now published the road traffic bill 2013 and as we expected there are to be increased penalty points for speeding, use of mobile phones while driving and not wearing seat belts.

There is also a new “Novice Driver” provision for newly qualified license holders. For motorcyclists, this means a mandatory high viz tabard with an “N” plate for two years after you’ve passed your test.

12 months ago we published our response to the penalty points review which blatantly tried to portray motorcyclists in the worst possible light and then used that biased portrayal to suggest riders be subject to double points. Click here to read that post.

RSA LogoMAG Ireland subsequently engaged in communications with the relevant statutory authorities including the RSA and we used the RSA’s own evidence to refute the claim, made in the review, that there was a direct link between motorcycle riding and speeding. There is of course no evidence that riders are are more or less likely to break the speed limit than are drivers of other vehicles.

It is important to note that while MAG Ireland has been successful in defending against the worst excesses of anti-bike prejudice in this case, the attitudes which fostered it will take longer to change, and we can expect to see further biased claims in the years to come.

Texting while driving - Image credit: all that, MAG Ireland did welcome some aspects of the review such as the increase in penalty points for use of a mobile phone while driving which we believe is long overdue. We are pleased to see that particular proposal has made it into the bill, as has the proposal for roadside impairment tests to be admissible as evidence for prosecution of drivers who drive under the influence of drugs.

The main points of the Road Traffic (No. 2) Bill 2013 published today are as follows:

  • Speeding will now attract 3 points on the spot or 5 on conviction in court (previously 2 and 4)
  • Mobile phone use will now attract 3 points on the spot or 5 on conviction in court (previously 2 and 4)
  • Non-wearing of seatbelts will now attract 3 points on the spot or 5 on conviction in court (previously 2 and 4)
  • The disqualification level for novice and learner drivers will be six penalty points, as opposed to twelve for other road users.

Speeding offences in Northern Ireland have long attracted three penalty points, and this bill will bring the two systems into alignment paving the way for mutual recognition of speeding points across the border.

The bill will also introduce the concept of a “Novice Driver” for the first two years of a newly acquired license. Novice drivers will be required to carry an “N” plate, or in the case of motorcyclists, to wear a fluorescent “N” tabard (similar to with the current requirement for an “L” tabard while riding on a learner permit). Section 4.1 (a) says:

…in the case of a motorcycle, there is displayed on a yellow fluorescent tabard worn over the person’s outside clothing the letter “N”, not less than 15 centimetres high in red on a white ground, in clearly visible vertical positions to the front and rear of the person’s torso…

This then is either thin end of the wedge for mandatory high viz for all riders, or a genuinely beneficial move which will reduce motorcycle casualties depending on your point of view.

We in MAG Ireland are currently examining the bill as published, and we will be publishing our considered response in due course.

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