A proposal that could see 16-year-olds driving would “help keep people” in rural Ireland, according to Kerry TD Michael Healy Rae.
The Independent TD was responding to European Union plans to allow teenagers to drive any car that has been adapted with a speed-limiting device set at 45 km/h.
The European Transport Safety Council is calling for the European Commission to drop the proposal.
Speaking to The Pat Kenny Show, Deputy Healy Rae said if young people were given the responsibility, they would respect it.
“Allowing people to drive a car – people are already allowed to drive a tractor at that age – it would be good for them,” he said.
“It would be good for rural Ireland; it would help keep people living there because they'd be able to assist parents and grandparents by running errands.
“We should be encouraging young people; we should be helping them to get going in life.”
Deputy Healy Rae said the proposal should go hand-in-hand with a new education model around road safety.
“When a person is in first, second and third years in secondary school, the teaching of the rules of the road, the operational use of a car, it should all be it should be part of the curriculum,” he said.
“We should be aiming to achieve a situation where every young person when they will be sitting their Leaving Cert … would be doing so with a full driver's licence in their back pocket.
“Isn't there plenty of time for sex education in our schools?
“It's very unusual, the concentration and some of the aspects of that subject and the effort and the money and the time that is going into that.
“We're telling them what to do in the back seat, but we're not telling them what to do in the front seat.”
‘Road Safety Authority’
Deputy Healy Rae said the proposal would attract “naysayers and the people saying this is wrong.”
“The one thing that I would say about the RSA and all of the people involved in road safety: their hearts and minds are 100% in the right place,” he said.
“They're obsessed with people speeding and they're obsessed with drink-driving.
“But the one thing they were never obsessed with was educating young people how to drive a car.”
Editor of completecar.ie Shane O’Donoghue said education “doesn't take away from the fact that younger drivers are shown statistically to be less safe.”
“This is just going to add more danger,” he said.
“We already are just getting to grips with trying to stop young learner drivers driving unaccompanied, and that's still a problem in Ireland.”
Mr O’ Donoghue said the maturity gap between 16-year-olds and 17-year-olds is an important factor to consider in the debate.
“The rules are there to take the average,” he said.
“The average 17-year-old is going to be significantly more mature than the average 16-year-old.”
Mr O’Donoghue said these young drivers might be kept safe by the 45 km/h limit, but it would not protect other drivers on the road.
“It's more people outside the car – so vulnerable road users that are pedestrians, cyclists, horses, etc.
“These people will be inexperienced, and they'll be putting those people at more risk than ever, and I think that's one of the big considerations.”
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