Starting next week anyone wanting to get a driver's license in Ireland will have to prove that they've undergone 12 hours of tuition with an approved driving instructor. The idea is that young drivers will benefit and be less unsafe if they've had professional education and training.
Like most American teens I got my driving instruction from people with a vested interest in my safety and the safety of the car I drove - my parents. I paid for Driver's Education, but that was after I already had my license. I took Driver's Ed because doing so allowed me to drive after 9pm and provided a reduction in my insurance rate. It wasn't mandated by the state.
The new Irish law requires that the trainee take 12 one-hour lessons with a minimum of two weeks between each lesson. That means it will be a minimum of six months before someone can even take their test. Oh, and the lessons cost about €30-€35 per hour, which means the trainee driver must pay €360-€420 ($500-$590) before they can take their driving test.
This law is an insult to parents because it implies that they don't impart sufficient safety instruction to their children despite the fact they obviously want their children to take care of themselves and their cars. Back when I was a teenager I knew plenty of young drivers (all boys) who passed Driver's Ed without any problem, but still drove like lunatics. It wasn't that they didn't know how to be safe, it was they didn't want to be safe.
I'm sure this is true here too. Some boys just love danger and these added lessons will almost certainly make zero difference to road safety. However, I'm willing to keep an open mind. Maybe young Irish drivers will be safer as a result of these additional, pricey lessons.
The law may indeed have some merit as it applies to young drivers. However, it seems pretty silly that it also applies to those who take up driving after the age of 25. And it is downright ludicrous that it applies to licensed drivers who move to Ireland from outside the EU and a handful of other countries.
That means that any American or Canadian moving here after next week will have to go through this process as if they're a 17-year-old just learning how to handle a car.
What makes this requirement farcical is that an American or Canadian can actually move here and drive for 12 months without an Irish license on an International Driving Permit. That means that someone who moves here from America can drive without restriction on the IDP, but if they're staying beyond that first year they have to act as if they've never driven before and take a series of lessons aimed at the novice at a substantial cost in both time and money.
It's crazy. It's pointless. And it could even be damaging to Ireland.
When companies decide to invest abroad they often take into account the life their managers will have in the country. Obviously driving is part of life in Ireland and this new requirement is a not insignificant burden being placed on any manager (and potentially their spouse too) posted here.
Will American companies choose to locate their European businesses elsewhere because of this? Probably not, but you never know and in the cut-throat business of luring investment why even take such a risk?