How to apply for your provisional licence
Hurrah! It’s 6am on the day of your 17th birthday and you cannot wait to get your hands on that precious sliver of plastic, your learner's permit, which is your first step on the way to the freedom of the open road. It’s a big day for you, but first, there are some hurdles to jump before you have to clear space in your wallet or purse…
1. Are you eligible?
Yes, most likely you are. You don’t need to specifically be an Irish citizen, but you do need to be ‘ordinarily resident’ here, which means you live here for more than 185 days a year. Oh, and if you’re a bit older, have previously tried learning to drive but let the process lapse for five years or more, then you need to start here again.
2. Big bang theory
Before applying for your first learner's permit, you have to pass the Driver Theory Test. It’s a 40-question test and you have to get 35 correct at least to pass. The test is designed to check knowledge of topics such as Rules of the Road, risk perception, eco-driving, hazard awareness and good driving behaviour.
3. Face time
These days, you need to actually go and physically apply for a licence in person. This is being done to cut down on identity fraud, so you’ll have to book a session at your nearest National Driving Licence Service (NDLS) centre. You don’t need to take your own photos any more, that’s done on the day in the centre, with a digital camera (they will even let you take another photo if the first one looks truly dreadful), but you will need to have some additional documents, including a correctly filled out licence application form, an eyesight test and medical form, if necessary, and some form of evidence of your home address.
4. Put your L plates up
If you’re going to drive a car using a learner's permit, you have to abide by the rules. Unlike the pan-European full licence, a learner's permit only allows you to drive in Ireland (not including Northern Ireland incidentally), plus you have to have your L plates properly and prominently displayed and you have to be, at all times, accompanied by a fully-licenced driver who will most likely be your driving sponsor - and they are most likely to be one of your parents.
Unless you’re over 70, a learner's permit will cost you €35 (payable on the day in the NDLS centre) and it costs an additional €35 to have extra categories of vehicle (e.g. heavy goods vehicle) added to your licence.
6. Get training
Once you have your permit, it’s straight into the training sessions. Gone are the days when you could take your test the day after getting your learner's permit. Now, all new drivers have to go through a 12-hour minimum mandatory Essential Driver Training (EDT) course with an accredited instructor. You don’t have to take all the lessons at once, obviously, and you should practice driving while accompanied by your sponsor as much as possible as well, but your EDT result will be added to your learner's logbook and that will have to be presented when you finally take your driving test.
7. The bad news
Again, it’s not like the old days when you (or more accurately your parents) could get away with stuff. Now, if you’re caught driving unaccompanied, or not displaying your L plates properly, it’s a €1,000 fine. Stick to the rules.
8. The clock is ticking…
Your first learner's permit lasts for two years, as does a second permit if you need it. Third and subsequent permits last only for one year, and you have to show evidence of having taken a driving test to get one. Better get cracking so…