Safe Driving

Safe Driving

You have a responsibility to drive safely, not only to yourself but to other road users. At the RSA, safety is our top priority – find out how you can make it yours as well.

Safety for permit holders

To ensure your safety and that of other road users, learner drivers are bound by certain laws.

Driving alone:

You can’t be alone in the vehicle when driving, regardless of how long you have been driving and how many learner permits you have held. And the person who’s with you must hold a full driving licence for the category of vehicle you are driving for a continuous period of 2 years.

The only exceptions to this are when you are:

  • Driving a work vehicle (eg, agricultural tractor or JCB), unless it has been adapted to carry a passenger, and the passenger holds a full driving licence for a work vehicle for a continuous period of 2 years.
  • Riding a motorcycle, if you obtained your first learner permit on or after the 6 December 2010 you need to carry a Certification of Satisfactory Completion with your permit in order to drive.

Accompanying other learners:

You may not act as an accompanying driver, ie, holder of a full licence, for a person driving on a learner permit. The Certificate of Competency you receive on passing your driving test does not qualify – you must hold a full licence to be an accompanying driver for a continuous period of at least 2 years.

‘L’ plates:

Your vehicle must display an ‘L’ plate front and rear. The plate should consist of a red ‘L’ on a white background.


No driving on motorways even if you possess a certificate of competence.


If you hold a learner permit to drive vehicles of categories B, C1, C, D1 or D you may not drive the vehicle when drawing a trailer.


No passengers can be carried for payment or other reward.

Vehicle safety

Safe driving alone does not ensure road safety. The vehicle you are driving must also be fit to be on the road. In fact, it is a serious offence to drive an unsafe vehicle on a public road.

Laws exist to enforce vehicle standards. One of the most important of these is that your car, if more than four years old, must undergo a regular health-check called a National Car Test (NCT).

As a driver, it is your responsibility to ensure your vehicle is in good working order. You must ensure that the steering, brakes, front and rear lights, reflectors, rear view mirrors, safety belts, speedometer, tyres, windscreen wipers, horn and silencer are all checked regularly to ensure they are in good condition and working properly.

Other requirements

Not all of the following are legal requirements but they are all important to adhere to:

Children in motor vehicles

You must not leave young children on their own in a motor vehicle, even if you are away for a short time. The children may face a number of hazards, such as:

  • A fire breaking out
  • Dehydration and heatstroke on a warm day (if all windows are closed)
  • Being trapped in electric windows, which could result in serious injury or death

Animals in motor vehicles

You should never leave animals alone in vehicles. It is cruel and unsafe and can result in injury to the animal and/or damage to your vehicle.

Using a mobile phone

You must not drive a vehicle or ride a motorbike while using a handheld mobile phone. It is an offence that can result in your receiving up to four penalty points.

Cyclists should never use a mobile phone when cycling; pedestrians should be careful when using one.

iPods etc

Personal radios and MP3 players can be distracting and cause you to lose concentration while driving or crossing the road. Cyclists in particular should avoid these devices, as they, more than most, rely on their hearing while on the road.

Rules of the Road

An in-depth knowledge of the Rules of the Road is essential, not only for drivers with full licences but for learners too

The Rules of the Road are for all road users – drivers, pedestrians, motorcyclists, horse riders and cyclists. The rules form the backbone of road safety in Ireland. You must know these rules well in order to pass your driver theory test and the driving test itself.

Once you have passed your theory test, you can apply to your local NDLS centre for a learner permit (enclosing the theory test certificate).

When you have your learner permit you should book driving lessons from a professional driving instructor to learn how to drive safely and correctly.

Links to key research

Research is crucial to the formulation of road safety policy.

Our research unit is responsible for collecting and analysing road safety data. This serves to deepen our understanding of why crashes happen and what we can do to prevent them.

The research unit is specifically responsible for:

  • Maintaining the road collision database and data system
  • Analysing collision data
  • Producing statistical reports on road collisions in Ireland
  • Conducting surveys of speed and seatbelt-wearing on Irish roads
  • Carry out cluster analysis on collisions on Irish roads
  • Undertaking multidisciplinary research to understand how collisions happen
  • Proposing and evaluating ways to prevent collisions and injuries
  • Participating in national and international research projects
  • Providing information to national and international bodies as well as the public

More information:

Research & Education Unit,
Road Safety Authority,
Moy Valley Business Park,
Primrose Hill,
Co. Mayo

Tel: 096 25000

Surveys and Consultation

Recent surveys, reports and consultation documents relating to road safety.

We commission a wide range of research that inform our policies. Research topics include:

  • Impairment (Drink driving, drug driving and fatigue)
  • Distraction
  • Road collisions
  • Road user behaviour and attitudes

About Your Car

Why the NCT exists, which vehicles it applies to, and the benefits of having vehicles tested

Checklist – Preparing your car for a driving test


Preparing your car for a driving test – view checklist

Looking after your vehicle

Looking after your vehicle and maintaining it properly is a good habit anyway, but it also means it has a much better chance of passing the National Car Test (NCT).

Introduced in 2000, the NCT is a preventative road safety measure that ensures cars using Irish roads are subject to a basic safety check at regular intervals. The NCT confirms that a vehicle satisfies basic safety standards on the day the test is carried out. It tests what is accessible and visible. It does not confer a warranty as regards the condition of the vehicle.

Passenger cars are required to undergo a roadworthiness test when they are four years old and every two years thereafter. An annual NCT for cars 10 years and older commenced with effect from 1 June 2011.

Looking after your vehicle and maintaining it properly is a good habit but it also means it has a much better chance of passing the NCT.

Benefits of the NCT

  • Safer, more reliable vehicles
  • Longer vehicle service life
  • Reduced fuel consumption
  • Reduced air and noise pollution

Avoidance of Penalty-points. Since 1 May 2009, you can receive penalty points for driving a vehicle on a public road that does not have a valid NCT

A vehicle needs to be serviced in line with Manufacturer’s guidelines, even if it has a valid NCT cert. A dealer should be willing to give their own warranty on a vehicle they’re selling. If not, this should immediately raise concerns regarding the condition of the vehicle. All buyers of second hand vehicles are advised to have the vehicle independently assessed before purchase.

Booking your NCT

When your vehicle is due to be tested, you must book with the NCTS: they will then send you an SMS, email or letter with details of your test appointment.

Find out more about the NCT including the benefits of the NCT and the legislation underpinning the NCT on National Car Test (NCT)