Educate our young drivers instead of prosecuting them

OPINION: If the government and the Road Safety Authority are serious about saving lives on our roads, they need to get real in educating young people interested in learning to drive safely instead of simply prosecuting them, writes Cllr Jackie Healy-Rae

AT a meeting of Kerry County Council on Monday, I proposed a motion that Kerry County Council write to the Minster for Education and the Road Safety Authority to look at both the possibility and feasibility of introducing driving education into the school curriculum whereby students would learn the theory side in depth and also the practical driving practice whilst in secondary school.

I gave a breakdown as to how I would see the rollout of this over a five or six-year period in our schools:

First to third year: Students learn the rules of the road in depth over three years. Each secondary school would also have a model car whereby students would also get familiar with the function of a car and learn basics such as changing a tyre.

If the government and RSA are serious about saving lives, they need to get real about educating young drivers

Transition year to fifth and sixth year: Students at the beginning of the year would sit their theory test in a mobile RSA unit which would visit the school on a given day. Following this, 12 lessons would be facilitated through the school and for those who cannot afford it, a subsidy should be made available from the RSA’s budget. Students would leave school with a full driver’s licence and be much more educated about the safe use of our roads.

It has been asked of me what about those who cannot afford to pay for lessons or the tests? I have identified funding that the RSA could use – for example in 2018 the RSA took in €26 million from driving licences and €15 million from the driving test fee, plus the RSA spent over €4 million in advertising. That is €45 million that the RSA could use part of to subsidise both its implementation and facilitation.

If both the government and RSA are serious about saving lives on our roads, they need to get real about educating our young drivers instead of simply prosecuting them.

We had had several new laws introduced in this country over the last 12 months, in relation to tightening up our road traffic laws, yet, on its current trajectory, unfortunately, it looks like road deaths could actually increase on the 147 lives that were lost last year.

So they still have not got it right and they are not targeting the right areas. They are ignoring other contributory factors that are causing deaths on our roads.

It is my hope that, at the very least, both Minister McHugh and the RSA will give this serious consideration and conduct a feasibility study into the possibility of implementing it and maybe even rolling it out on a pilot basis in a number of schools.

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