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Learning To Drive In Ireland Is Painful - No Wonder So Many People Are Failing Their Tests

By kaylawalsh

January 5, 2018 at 2:38pm

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I'm 26 years old and I can't drive. 

I have applied for a Public Services Card, attended an appointment with all my documents in tow, waited for the card to arrive in the post, applied for the driver theory test, waited weeks for a slot, studied for the test, and passed. I have paid to get an eye test and attended another appointment to get my learner permit. 

And I am still very, very far away from being a driver. 

I have at least 12 mandatory lessons, costing hundreds of euro, ahead of me. I'll have to wait months for a date for my test, and I'm almost as likely to fail as I am to pass. 

After all that, I'm facing incredibly high insurance costs as a first-time driver and a journalist, which is classed as a "high risk" occupation. 

I'll admit I've put it the whole ordeal off for as long as possible, being too focused on school, college and work to get myself organised (alright, I've also been lazy). 

I moved to Dublin when I was 18 but always wanted to do my lessons at home in Mayo, where I thought I'd have a better chance of passing the test. 

But I wasn't back there regularly enough, and watching my friends failing time and time again didn't give me much encouragement. 

They had all had the required number of lessons and practiced driving whenever they had a spare minute. 

So what's going on? Why is it so hard to get a driving licence in Ireland?

The mandatory lessons haven't increased pass rates - they were actually lower in 2016 (53.65%) than in 2008 (57.2%), according to the Road Safety Authority.

It doesn't make much sense that there's such a huge discrepancy in the numbers passing in Ennis (73.25% in 2016) and Churchtown (42.41%). 

Year after year, the four Dublin test centres of Tallaght, Finglas, Rathgar and Raheny have among the lowest pass rates in the country.

Are people from Clare naturally better drivers than people from Dublin? Are instructors in the capital failing to prepare people for busier and more stressful driving conditions? 

Are there arbitrary quotas for each driving centre, and your test examiner knows beforehand whether they're going to pass or fail you?

Or are some examiners far harsher than others (yup, according to the 2010 Comptroller Auditor General report)?

Transport Minister Shane Ross has at least acknowledged that waiting times for tests are far too long (more than 20 weeks) and an improved system will apparently be in place by the end of this year. 

But it's really not enough. Less focus should be placed on students driving flawlessly over the space of one short exam and knowing fairly useless statistics for the theory test (plus I'm almost certain one of the answers to a question about how to help the environment in my test was "Get the bus"...). 

Safety is obviously important but good drivers are failing every day. 

A proper investigation should be carried out into the discrepancies in pass rates across the country, and people should be encouraged (and allowed) to take the number of lessons they personally need - whether that's more or less than 12. 

Lessons should be provided in secondary schools and the whole system should be streamlined and made more affordable. 

As it stands, it looks like my mammy will be chauffeuring me around for a while yet. 

READ NEXT: The Taxi Situation In Dublin Has Gone To Shite And It's An Absolute Tragedy

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