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Sweet Sixteen – But Not Behind the Wheel: Almost 8 in 10 Irish People Against EU Plans to Allow 16-Year-Olds to Drive

  • Dubliners and 21-24 year-olds most likely to support the new rule to allow greater independence
  • Almost eight in ten (77%) Irish people are against new EU plans to allow children as young as 16 to get behind the wheel.

This is according to the findings of a new survey by Peopl Insurance which examined attitudes towards a new proposal by the European Commission to allow children as young 16 to drive, as long as the vehicle is adapted with a speed limiting device set to a maximum speed of 45km. The proposal is part of major revision of EU driving rules being discussed by the European Council and European Parliament. Headline findings from the Peopl survey, published in the run-up to World Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims, found that:

  • Most people (77%) believe that 16 is too young an age to drive and that there would be an increase in road collisions if people of this age were allowed to legally get behind the wheel.
  • More than one in five (23%) support the proposal citing that it would allow young people to become more independent.
  • Those age 21 – 24 (31%) as well as Dubliners (29%) are most likely to support the new rule to lower the minimum legal driving age to 16
  • Those aged 35 to 44 (19%) are least likely to be in favour of the proposal

Commenting on the survey findings, Paul Walsh, CEO of Peopl Insurance said:

The European Commission has put forward the proposal to allow 16-year-olds to drive as a way of addressing mobility issues in remote areas. So there are likely to be some who would welcome such a move, particularly those living in isolated rural areas. However, the proposal has proved controversial and led to concerns that such a move would simply add to the dangers on Irish roads – as borne out by the results of our survey, which found that the majority of Irish people do not believe it would be safe to allow children aged 16 to drive. Interestingly though, Dubliners were more likely to support the measure than those living in Ulster, Munster and Connacht.

In a year when the number of fatalities on Irish roads is hitting record highs, when pedestrian road deaths in Ireland are estimated to be at their highest in 15 years, and when more than twice as many children up to the age of 15 have been killed on Irish roads than was the case in 2022, it is understandable that there is such widespread disquiet about the new proposal.”

Other highlights to emerge from the Peopl survey include:

  • Those living in Ulster are most opposed to the plan to allow 16-year-olds to drive: 90% of Ulster people living in the Republic of Ireland and 100pc of Ulster people living in Northern Ireland were against the proposed measure.

Further commenting, Mr Walsh said:

“The European Transport Safety Council (ETSC) – whose members include the Road Safety Authority in Ireland  – recently called on the European Commission to drop the proposal that would allow children aged 16 to drive.

It is clear that this new proposal needs to be considered carefully before it is introduced. But in addition, clearly more needs to be done at national level to alert young people to the dangers of driving on Irish roads – and to educate them around how they can drive more safely.”