Minister for Transport, Tourism & Sport Leo Varadkar has published a review of the existing penalty point system, which suggests a number of proposals on how to reform the penalty point regime.
The report was carried out by the Department and compares Ireland’s penalty point system with ten other jurisdictions. This is particularly relevant given plans to introduce mutual recognition of penalty points between Ireland and Northern Ireland. The report also examines whether the existing system has been effective and proportionate when it comes to improving road safety and reducing injuries and fatalities on our roads.
In total there are 43 penalty point offences currently in operation. The report’s proposals include that penalty points be increased for 11 offences including those linked to the most dangerous driver behaviour such as speeding (from 2 to a possible 3 points). Other offences earmarked for an increase include front seatbelt offences, and using a mobile phone.
It also proposes that the severity of three offences be reduced: eg removing the automatic imposition of five penalty points and a compulsory court appearance for driving a vehicle without an NCT certificate, and instead replacing this with three penalty points. The same recommendation applies for the offence of parking in a dangerous position.
Minister Varadkar will now consider the report’s recommendations further in consultation with the Joint Oireachtas Transport Committee, which comprises TDs and Senators from across the political spectrum. Any changes will be incorporated in the Road Traffic Bill 2012 which is scheduled for publication later this year.
“The penalty points system has been in operation for almost ten years. Therefore, I considered it opportune to carry out a general review of the points applying to each offence to determine if the levels were still appropriate and effective,” Minister Varadkar said.
“We often hear calls to increase penalty points for one offence or another and to introduce new offences. I want to ensure that there is coherence in the penalties which apply to offences. I also want to avoid ad-hoc adjustments which could result in disproportionate penalties being applied to individual offences. The number of penalty points incurred should be proportionate to the gravity of the offence in terms of road safety.
“The penalty point system has operated successfully because it streamlined the approach to fixed charge penalties and provided drivers with the option of avoiding a court appearance. It also reduced the amount of time that Gardaí were required to attend court, and meant that they could be deployed on more pressing matters. It is ones of reasons for the dramatic fall in road deaths over the past ten years.”
The review suggests a range of other possible measures for consideration by the Oireachtas Committee, including:
• A graduated range of penalty points for speed offences, where higher penalty points would apply if the vehicle was travelling substantially over the speed limit;
• New powers for Gardaí to impound and sell uninsured cars;
• Linking the NCT test to motor tax renewal.
The report can be accessed here