Figures released by the Courts Service of Ireland show that 378 motorists were convicted of penalty point offences in County Longford between January 2014 and March of this year, but that 57% of drivers avoided penalty points.
The issue stems from a loophole which allows convicted drivers to avoid receiving penalty points by not presenting their driving licence in court.
While failure to produce a driving licence in court is an offence punishable by a €2,000 fine or three months’ imprisonment, no individuals have been prosecuted in respect of this law, although a Garda operation is now under way which will involve arresting offenders in court and prosecuting them.
Despite more than half of the drivers convicted locally escaping penalty points, Longford’s figures compare favourably to the rest of the country, with the national average standing at 75 per cent. In Roscommon, 71 per cent of convicted drivers avoided penalty points, while in Leitrim that figure rose to 93 per cent. Only Wexford and Westmeath’s statistics were lower, with both at 55 per cent.
“The figures do seem to show that Longford is below the national average,” said Fine Gael TD for Longford-Westmeath, James Bannon, although he declined to comment further until he gets a reply to parliamentary questions he is currently compiling for the Minister for Transport, Tourism, and Sport, Paschal Donohoe. However, he did admit he was concerned by the figures and that, “greater clarity needs to be brought to legislation.”