Clare TD and Fianna Fáil spokesperson on Transport Timmy Dooley has criticised the Transport Minister for bringing in new penalty points for drivers without a valid NCT cert without addressing the major backlogs in the testing system.
The new points come into force today but drivers are waiting up to four months for a test at an NCT centre.
Penalty Points will be increased for 9 offences, and a further 14 offences will now attract penalty points for the first time. In addition, 2 offences which previously involved a court appearance have now been brought within the fixed charge notice and penalty points system.
The new penalty point offences include learner permit holders driving unaccompanied or failing to display an L Plate, and failure by novice drivers to display an N Plate. For each of these offences, the points will be two on payment of a fixed charge or four on conviction in court. Among the offences for which the penalty points have increased are dangerous overtaking, failure to stop a vehicle before a stop sign and failure to obey traffic lights. The offences brought within the fixed charge notice system are using a vehicle without an NCT and parking in a dangerous position. It will now be possible to pay a fixed charge fine for these and receive lower penalty points than applicable on conviction in court.
Deputy Dooley commented: “While every effort must be made to ensure the highest standards of road safety, Minister Paschal Donohoe appears to be putting the cart before the horse. Measures should be taken to ensure that all cars are NCT compliant, however drivers should not be penalised for not having a cert because of unacceptably long delays at NCT centres. I have been contacted by people who are waiting more than three months for an appointment.
“The introduction of the NCT was a progressive measure aimed at reducing road injuries and deaths, and has been extremely effective in ensuring that all vehicles are roadworthy. However, extensive delays have been reported at many of the 47 NCT centres across the country, forcing drivers to wait up to four months for a test. These delays leave them open to a €60 fine and 3 penalty points if they are caught without a cert.
“This morning the Minister confirmed that motorists driving without an NCT cert will be fined and given penalty points, even if they have booked an appointment. I believe the Minister should re-examine this situation until the delays have eased. Test centres should be forced to recruit additional staff to help clear the backlog and manage the increased demand,” concluded Deputy Dooley.
Speaking today, Minister Pascal Donohoe said: ‘The fixed charge and penalty points system has played a major role in improving road safety in the years since its introduction. The adjustments and new penalty point offences target particularly dangerous on-road behaviour. This includes learners driving unaccompanied, people disobeying traffic lights and dangerous overtaking. I know that some people may question the penalties for driving without an L Plate or N Plate. We need to remember that the main purpose of the penalty points system is to concentrate minds and, ultimately, change driver behaviour. Learners must be accompanied and must display an L–Plate as a condition of their learner permit, and should remember that as learners they should exercise caution at all times. The L Plate is as much a reminder to them as to other road users. The N Plate is similar, and should remind road users that, even when they have passed their driving test, they still have much to learn and experience to gain.’
“Since the penalty points system began, there has been a dramatic fall in the numbers dying needlessly on our roads. However, 2013 showed the first increase in road fatalities for many years, and, unfortunately, we are on course for similar figures in 2014. The penalty points system played an important role in reducing road fatalities and improving safety from 2002 on. We need to keep up the pressure to reduce road deaths, and I am confident that the measures which I am introducing today will make an important contribution to achieving that goal,” he added.