Well I was certainly relieved to hear that the Road Safety Authority has seen sense and scrapped their plans to impose a night-time curfew for learner drivers from 10pm to 6am.
Announced earlier this year, the measure was one of a series of proposals aimed at young drivers (the others, which included limiting the engine size of their cars and preventing them from carrying certain passengers, have also been abandoned). Though such practices as banning novices from night-driving are fairly commonplace in many parts of Europe, I thought the measure was bordering on the extreme, to say the least. Is the word discrimination not in any of these people’s vocabularies?
I (okay, many moons ago, it seems now), was once a young driver. In point of fact, I learned to drive at night, evening and night-times being the only times my Dad (god love him, my designated driving teacher) was available to take me out driving. It being October when I bought my first car, darkness fell quite early and I’d swear it was after Christmas before I drove in daylight for the first time.
Learning to drive on dark and wet winter nights was a baptism of fire, I needn’t tell you. My knees regularly knocked together when I’d finally step from behind the wheel (as, I can imagine, did my father’s). But, for me, it was the best possible way I could have learned. It made me a cautious and responsible driver, for one thing. I was subjected to – and learned to deal with – all manners of inclement weather and difficult driving conditions from Day One – and thankfully whilst I was in the company of an experienced driver.
It is irrefutable that a proportion of young drivers are reckless and endanger lives but I would hazard a guess that many of these drivers will continue to do so for the rest of their lives. So why should all young drivers should be restricted because of the actions of a small minority? Apart from anything else, the point has been made that it’s unconstitutional: Article 40.1 of the Constitution states that “All citizens shall, as human persons, be held equal before the law” and therefore one group of learner drivers cannot be treated differently to others on the basis of age.
And talk about impractical! Are youngsters, particularly those residing in rural areas, supposed to leave work or the college library early to get home before their curfew? These people are over 18, old enough to vote and do who knows what else, for heaven’s sake. Younger drivers are already paying exorbitant insurance costs and so it would be totally unfair to limit where they can and cannot use their cars.
The RSA is demonstrating a distinct common sense approach in its recommendation that judges be given powers to enforce such measures on learner drivers if they are found guilty of reckless or unsafe behaviour. Now the Government needs to step up a gear and empower those judges to really hit such law-breaking drivers where it hurts.
On a separate note, I’m all for the RSA’s proceeding with plans to reduce the blood alcohol limit from 80mg to 20mg for provisional drivers. There should be a policy of zero tolerance on this one. Let’s just hope Transport Minister Noel Dempsey listens to what they have to say.