Q: I’m in the process of getting my provisional licence to take up work in County Limerick. Things are going well and I am hoping to be able to borrow a few euro to buy my own car and insurance. My driving instructor has told me that I can’t drive until I’ve done all my lessons. I think he is just trying to make sure I don’t switch away from him. He has told me that I could have my provisional licence taken away from me. Once I have the car and insurance, am I safe to drive?
Unfortunately, you may be in a bit of difficulty in this regard. It is a criminal offence to drive a vehicle on a provisional licence (now known as a learners permit) without being accompanied by a person who holds a full valid driver’s licence. Also, that person needs to have the licence for a minimum period of two years.
You might be liable to a fine of up to €240 and up to four penalty points on your provisional licence. Having four points on your provisional licence may well have a very strong upwards effect on the cost of your insurance.
If you were to obtain seven penalty points, you would be disqualified from driving for a period of time.
Quite apart from penalty points and a fine, if you are detected driving a vehicle while unaccompanied then your vehicle is liable to be impounded. If you are driving someone else’s vehicle while unaccompanied, that vehicle is also liable to be impounded and the owner can face a fine of up to €1,000.
It is also possible, if there was an accident while you were driving without a experienced driver present, that your insurance company might be entitled to step away from any liability under your policy. This would mean that you would be personally liable for any damage done to any other vehicle and be personally responsible for any personal injury award should anyone be injured as a result of that accident. This would include any passengers in your vehicle. This is a debt that might possibly hang over you for some very considerable period of time.
Your best bet would be to keep on with your lessons and try and get your full licence as soon as possible. Once you have passed your test, you must display ‘N’ plates, but you are entitled to drive on your own. You have to wait six months from the date your provisional licence is issued to take your test.
In short, you are strongly advised not to drive unaccompanied when only holding a provisional licence.