Insurance costs blamed for fall-off in number of learner drivers

The number of young people with learner permits has fallen by more than a third compared to 2006

Insurance costs blamed for fall-off in number of learner drivers

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Rising car insurance costs are said to be a 'massive' cause behind the falling number of young people learning to drive. 

According to Department of Transport figures published by The Irish Times today, the number of 17-20 year-olds with learner permits last year (57,821) was down more than a third on the 2006 level.

Meanwhile, there were 40,899 first-time applications for a permit in 2006 - but that was down to 31,731 in 2016.

The figures come amid continuing concerns about the cost of car insurance.

Figures released by the CSO last year showed that premiums increased by nearly 40% in a year.

Earlier this year, Independent TD Michael Collins told the Dáil that young people have to pay €4,000 or more to be insured - while other deputies cited other cases where individuals were quoted even higher figures.

Conor Faughnan, Director of Communications with the AA, spoke to The Pat Kenny Show about the learner permit trends.

He explained: "Cost is definitely a massive part of it. The cost of motor insurance has worsened dramatically over the last three years.

"That's bad enough for a mainstream, plain, vanilla driver who has got no claims record and a bit of a history behind them [...] Any non-standard risk - and that unfortunately includes new & young drivers - they've seen an increase [that's] even worse."

Conor believes there has also been something of a cultural shift.

"I remember when I was of college age... particularly for young men there seemed to be a burning ambition to get driving," he observed. "That just doesn't seem to be as intense in the culture nowadays.

"I think partly that feeds into it, but I think there's no doubt it's the sheer cost as well."

Recent years have seen more restrictions placed on learner drivers.

After securing a learner's permit, new drivers must take 12 one-hour driving lessons - often at €25-40 per hour - before taking their test.

Newly qualified drivers, meanwhile, have to display 'N' (novice) plates on their vehicles for two years.

These measures have come alongside more general road safety measures, such as the recently agreed drink driving rules.

While some may argue such measures have fed into the fall-off in learner drivers, Conor suggests that they represent a positive development.

"We used to die on the roads in double the numbers that exist now," he said. "There was lots and lots about the old culture of road safety in Ireland was very, very poor [...] The lack of system around teaching people how to drive was part of that."