New Unaccompanied Driver Laws

New Unaccompanied Driver Laws

New Unaccompanied Driver Laws

New laws are being introduced to strengthen the Graduated Driver Licensing (GDL)* system in Ireland on 22 December 2018.

While the existing fixed charge and penalty point arrangements continue to apply to learner drivers detected driving unaccompanied, new penalties will also apply to the vehicle owner.

Key points:

  • A vehicle being driven by an unaccompanied learner driver can be detained by Gardaí
  • The owner of a vehicle who allows an unaccompanied learner or unlicensed driver to drive their vehicle is liable to have their vehicle seized by the Gardaí and could face a fine of up to €1,000.
  • The existing fixed charge and penalty point arrangements continue to apply.
    • A learner driver detected of driving unaccompanied faces an €80 fine and two penalty points if paid within 28 days, a €120 fine and two penalty points if paid within the next 28 days and €120 and four penalty points if convicted in 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 1 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.

*Under the GDL system, learner drivers must always be accompanied by a fully qualified driver (not a novice).

Frequently Asked Questions

Questions about the changes to the unaccompanied driver laws

What is the new legislation?

It has already been the case that it is against the law to drive unaccompanied on a learner permit. On 22 December 2018 legislation takes effect that means that a learner driver who should be accompanied, but is driving unaccompanied, is liable to have their vehicle impounded. This is in addition to the penalties which applied prior to this change which means you could incur up to four penalty points and face a fine up to €120. The changes being introduced also mean that where the unaccompanied learner is not the vehicle owner, the owner faces the vehicle being impounded and a fine of up to €1,000. An accompanying driver must have held a full driving licence for the vehicle for at least two years.

Why the changes?

The purpose of these changes is to highlight the dangers of driving unaccompanied. Learner permit holders driving unaccompanied pose a danger to themselves and other road users. Unaccompanied learner permit holders are among the most vulnerable road users because of their inexperience and the greater likelihood to take risks on the road. It is also recognised that the most effective way to practice learning to drive is through the guidance and support of the accompanying driver.

According to statistics, 35 of the 47 fatal crashes involving learner drivers between 2014 and 2017 involved unaccompanied drivers. That is a shockingly high statistic. These laws will act as a strong deterrent and force those who might consider lending their car irresponsibly to an unaccompanied learner to think more seriously about the consequences.

Who does this new legislation apply to?

The new unaccompanied driver legislation applies to everyone driving on a learner permit and who must be accompanied. It does not apply to motorcycle learners or to tractor learners unless there is a passenger seat in the tractor being driven

What date is the legislation effective from?

The legislation is effective from 22 December 2018.

Why is this legislation only being enforced now?

This particular piece of legislation to allow a car to be impounded is only effective from 22 December 2018 and therefore could not have been enforced before now. It has generally been a requirement for all learner drivers to be accompanied and related penalties have been applied up to now.

Does the legislation apply to non-Irish licence holders?

The legislation is applicable to learner permit holders and therefore only applicable to Irish learner permit holders. A non-Irish learner permit/provisional licence holders is not authorised to drive in Ireland. They must have a valid full driving licence when driving as a visitor or a resident, otherwise they are committing an offence of driving without a licence.

Does this legislation apply to first time learner permit holders only?

No, this legislation applies to all learner permit holders who must be accompanied, regardless of how many learner permits you have held. It does not apply to motorcycle learners or to tractor learners unless there is a passenger seat in the tractor being driven.

What will happen if I am stopped by the Gardaí driving unaccompanied on a learner permit?

You could incur up to four penalty points and face a fine up to €120 as well as having your vehicle impounded. If the vehicle you are driving does not belong to you the vehicle owner may face a fine of up to €1,000 and the vehicle may also be impounded.

What if I have the permission of the car owner and I drive unaccompanied on a learner permit?

If you drive unaccompanied even with the permission of the owner of the car then you face prosecution. The changes in legislation mean the owner of the vehicle faces the possibility of the vehicle being impounded and a fine of up to €1,000. You could incur up to four penalty points and face a fine up to €120.

My car was impounded, and consent was not given by me for the learner driver to use my car, how do I get my car back?

Contact your local Garda Station as this is a matter for the Gardaí. The legislation allows a vehicle owner whose vehicle is driven by a learner driver to make a defence in Court that the vehicle was taken without his consent. It may be open to Gardaí to charge the driver with offences relating to taking the car without consent. There is a fee to release the vehicle, it is €125 for the first day and €35 for a whole or part of each subsequent day.

What if I am driving to collect a driver with a full licence to accompany me?

You must be accompanied by a fully licensed driver (a person who has held a full driving licence for the vehicle for at least two years) at all times while driving on a learner permit. This does not apply to motorcycle learners or to tractor learners unless there is a passenger seat in the tractor being driven.

I have done my driving test and failed and am waiting for another test appointment, can I drive unaccompanied?

No, the law states that while you are driving on a learner permit you must be accompanied at all times by a fully licensed driver.

If I have evidence of an upcoming driving test date, will that suffice?

No, you must have passed your driving test and be in possession of your full driving licence to drive unaccompanied.

Are there penalty points attached to this offence?

Yes, driving unaccompanied was a penalty point offence and continues to be a penalty point offence in addition to the changes implemented on 22 December 2018. If a person accepts the penalty point offence 2 penalty points are applied to your licence and a fixed charge of up to €120 applies. If convicted in Court 4 penalty points apply together with a fixed charge of €120.

Is there an age limit on having to be accompanied by a qualified driver?

No, if you are a learner driver you need to be accompanied by a fully licensed driver regardless of your age.

Is there a lead in time – to allow me to apply and sit my driving test and get my full licence?

No, it has already been an offence to drive on a learner permit unaccompanied.

If I have a full licence from a country that doesn’t have a licensing exchange agreement with Ireland and I have taken out a learner permit here to do my test does this law apply to me?

Yes it does. When you take out a learner permit in this country for the reason stated above you must adhere to all conditions of holding a learner permit including being accompanied by a fully licensed driver at all times.

I only use my car for short journeys, does the law apply to me?

Yes, the law applies to everyone driving on a learner permit regardless of how much you use your car or the distance you would be driving.

Why are these measures being described as the ‘Clancy Amendment’?

The measures are known as the Clancy Amendment and recognise the contribution of Mr. Noel Clancy in his efforts to bring about this change. Mr. Clancy lost his wife and daughter in a crash involving an unaccompanied learner driver. Geraldine Clancy (58) and Louise Clancy (22) were killed in the collision on 22 December 2015.

If none of the above refer to you and you are unable to apply online, you can download an application form from our website.

Complete the application form and include details of your driver number and post to:

The Driver Testing Section,
Road Safety Authority,
Moy Valley Business Park,
Primrose Hill,
Ballina,
Co. Mayo,
Eircode: F26 V6E4


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