If you break a rule of the road, you may commit a driving offence. Driving offences in Ireland are set out in the Road Traffic Acts 1961 (as amended).
Driving offences have different penalties, which depend on the seriousness of the offence, and sometimes, on how many offences you have committed in the past.
Penalties range from fixed charges, which are fines that you must pay, to imprisonment for the most serious offences. If you are sent a fixed charge notice and you fail to pay the charge on time, you will be summoned to appear in court.
Ireland also uses a penalty points system for driving offences.
Gardaí have the power to arrest you for some driving offences, such as drink driving or dangerous driving.
This document outlines the types of driving offences that are set out in Irish law, and describes the penalties available to the Gardaí or the courts. It also explains how to appeal a decision to issue you with a penalty for a driving offence.
You must have a driving licence to drive in Ireland. You can read more about:
- How to apply for a learner permit to drive a car
- Applying for a driving licence
- Driving tests in Ireland
Several driving offences relate to licences and driving with the right licence.
Driving without a licence
It is an offence to drive without a licence. A Garda can ask you to produce your driving licence for inspection. If you do not have your driving licence with you, you must bring it to a Garda station for inspection within 10 days. If you refuse to give the Garda your name and address, the Garda has the power to arrest you.
If you don’t have a current licence, and your driving licence expired less than 12 months before the offence took place, you could be fined up to €1000. If it was more than 12 months since your licence was valid (or if you never had a valid licence), you could be fined up to €2000.
If you drive while disqualified from driving, or you are required to produce a certificate of competency or certificate of fitness before getting a driving licence but you fail to do so, you could be fined up to €6000, or be imprisoned for up to 6 months, or both.
Learner and novice drivers
If you hold a learner permit, you must be accompanied by a driver who has had a full driving licence for at least the last 2 years. If you drive unaccompanied, you are committing an offence. This offence carries an €80 fine and 2 penalty points. If you do not pay the fine and are summoned to court, you could be fined €120 and get 4 penalty points.
The Gardaí have the power to seize the car you are driving, even if it belongs to someone else. If you allow a learner driver to drive your car unaccompanied, you could be fined up to €1000.
If you are a learner motorcyclist, you do not have to be accompanied at all times. But you cannot drive your motorcycle unaccompanied until you have completed your Initial Basic Training.
All learner drivers (except in category W, which includes motorcycles) must display ‘L’ plates. When you have passed your driving test, you must display an ‘N’ plate for 2 years. Failure to properly display the L or N plate is an offence. You could get 2 penalty points and a fixed charge fine of €60, which increases to 4 penalty points and €90 if you are convicted in court
Failing to display insurance or tax
The Gardaí have the power to impound your vehicle if you drive without tax or insurance.
You must have motor insurance to drive a car in your own name or as a named driver on someone else's policy. If a Garda asks for your insurance certificate, you must provide it within 7 days. Offences for driving without insurance are prosecuted in court. Failure to display an insurance disk carries a fixed charge of €60 (rising to €90 after 28 days).
If you drive while uninsured, you could be fined up to €5000 and get 5 penalty points. You could also go to prison for up to 6 months. The judge may decide to disqualify you from driving instead of giving you penalty points. You can read more in our document on ‘Motor insurance’.
It is an offence to drive an untaxed vehicle and it is an offence to drive without displaying a current tax disc. You can read more in our document on ‘Motor tax’.
If you drive over the speed limit, you will get 3 penalty points and a fixed charge fine of €80. If you do not pay the fine within 28 days, it increases to €120. If you do not pay this within 28 days (56 days from the original fine notification date), you will be summonsed to court where, if convicted, you could be fined up to €1000 and receive up to 5 penalty points.
Careless and dangerous driving offences
It is an offence to drive in a public place without due care and attention. If a Garda believes that you have driven carelessly, but no accident resulted, the Garda can issue you with 2 penalty points and an €80 fixed charge for “driving without reasonable consideration”. This rises to 4 points and €120 in court.
There are a number of other offences based on disobeying road signs, or acting carelessly, and these mainly attract penalty points and fixed charge notices. Examples include failure to yield, breaking traffic lights, and failing to stop at a junction. You can read a full list of penalty points offences on rsa.ie.
If the offence is more serious, you could be convicted of careless driving and fined up to €5000. If you are convicted of careless driving causing death or serious bodily harm, you could be fined up to €10,000 and imprisoned for up to 2 years, or both.
It is an offence to drive dangerously in a public place. If you are convicted of dangerous driving, you could be fined up to €5000, or be sent to prison for up to 6 months, or both. If you are convicted of dangerous driving causing death or serious bodily harm, you could be fined up to €20,000 and imprisoned for up to 10 years, or both.
Using your mobile phone while driving
It is an offence to hold a mobile phone in your hand, or to support it with another part of your body (for example, between your head and shoulder), while driving. The only exception is if you are calling emergency services on 999 or 112.
It is an offence to access information on your phone while you are driving, even if your phone is secured into a hands-free system. You can legally talk on your phone using a hands-free system, but the Road Safety Authority advises very strongly against this.
The penalty for using your phone while driving is a fixed charge of €60, and 3 penalty points. This increases to a fixed charge of €90, and 5 penalty points if it goes to court because of non-payment.
Drink or drug driving offences
It is an offence to drive in a public place if you are too intoxicated to have proper control of your vehicle. An intoxicant can be either alcohol or drugs, or both.
Gardaí can set up a roadblock to conduct random alcohol and drug testing. It is unlawful to refuse to be breathalysed, and you could be fined up to €5000, or be imprisoned for up to 6 months, or both.
You commit an offence if an alcohol test taken within 3 hours of driving finds that you have above:
- 50 milligrams (or 20 milligrams for learner or novice drivers) of alcohol in 100 millilitres of blood, or
- 67 milligrams (or 27 milligrams for learner or novice drivers) of alcohol in 100 millilitres of urine, or
- 22 micrograms (or 9 micrograms for learner or novice drivers) of alcohol in 100 millilitres of breath
The maximum penalty for drink/drug driving is a €5000 fine and/or imprisonment for up to 6 months. All drink driving offences result in disqualification from driving for at least 3 months.
You can read more about penalties for drink driving offences.
It is an offence to park your car in a place where it could be dangerous to other people. You can get 3 penalty points and a fixed charge fine of €80 for this offence. If you do not pay within 28 days, the fine increases to €120. If convicted in court, you could receive a fine of up to €2500 for a first offence, or up to €4000 if it is not your first offence under this law.
It is an offence to park in a disabled parking bay unless you have a disabled parking badge. The penalty for this offence is a fixed charge fine of €150 (increasing to €225 if you do not pay within 28 days). Some city and county councils clamp vehicles that are parked illegally in disabled parking bays.
A system of parking restrictions and fines is also in place throughout Ireland.
Roadworthiness of vehicle
There are a number of offences based on the roadworthiness of your vehicle.
Dangerously defective vehicles
If you drive a “dangerously defective” vehicle in a public place you are committing an offence. Dangerously defective means that the vehicle is a danger to the public because of its condition. The penalty for this offence is a fine of up to €5000 and/or imprisonment of up to 3 months.
National Car Test (NCT)
It is an offence to drive a vehicle in a public place without a current NCT certificate. This applies to vehicles from the fourth anniversary of their first registration. The penalty for driving without an NCT certificate is a fine of up to €2000, and/or up to 5 penalty points and/or imprisonment for up to 3 months.
Certificate of roadworthiness
If you are driving a vehicle that has 8 passenger seats or more, or you drive a goods vehicle, goods trailer or ambulance, you must have a certificate of roadworthiness. If you cannot produce one within 10 days of being requested to do so by the Gardaí, you are guilty of an offence.
Fitness to drive
It is an offence to drive in public if you know that you are medically unfit to do so.
Drivers who are 70 years or over (or will be 70 during the lifetime of their licence), and drivers who have certain medical conditions must have a fitness to drive certificate signed by their GP. In some cases, a GP may decide that you are unfit to drive, or the NDLS may decide that you are unfit to drive. If this is the case you will be refused a licence. You can appeal this decision..
You can get more information about fitness to drive from the Road Safety Authority (pdf).
You can read more in our documents on:
- Drink driving offences
- Penalty points for driving offences
- Motor accidents (describes what you must do by law)
- National speed limits
- Seat belts and the law
- Parking fees, fines and vehicle clamping
Can I appeal against a motoring penalty?
How you appeal against a decision to penalise you for a motor offence depends on the type of penalty you have received.
Penalty points and fixed charge notices
If you have been issued with a fixed charge notice (with penalty points or not) you can apply to the Gardaí for the charge to be cancelled. You have to show that there are good procedural or exceptional grounds for cancelling the charge. You can get more information on appeals against penalty points and fixed charge notices in our document on penalty points for driving offences.
Appealing a court conviction
If you choose not to pay a fixed charge notice within 56 days, you are issued with a summons to appear in the District Court. Some motor offences can only be prosecuted in court (for example, driving without insurance and dangerous driving). The most serious motor offences are heard in the Circuit Court, for example dangerous driving causing death.
If you are convicted of a motor offence in the District Court, you can appeal the decision to the Circuit Court. This includes appealing against a decision to disqualify you from driving by the District Court. You should get legal advice if you are planning an appeal. You can get free legal advice from Free Legal Advice Centres (FLAC).
You must lodge an appeal within 14 days of your conviction. If you want to represent yourself, you can ask the court clerk in your local District Court for help with the forms you need to complete. Alternatively a solicitor can help you.
Removal of a disqualification
If you have been disqualified from driving, you can apply for your driving licence to be restored. You make the application to the District Court where the order to disqualify you was made. An application costs €55. You must be more than halfway through your disqualification period before you can make an application.
Your driving licence will not be restored if:
- The disqualification is for 2 years or less
- You have been given another disqualification in the past 10 years
The court can reduce the period of disqualification to two-thirds of the original period of disqualification or to 2 years, whichever is the greater.
You can get further information and the forms you need from the District Court clerk.
Other driving offence questions
What happens if I commit a driving offence abroad?
Penalty points and endorsements on driving licences received in other countries (including EU/EEA member states) do not transfer between states.
This means that if you got penalty points abroad or already have endorsements on your driving licence before coming to Ireland, these penalty points or endorsements will not transfer over to an Irish driving licence.
If, however, you have been disqualified from driving in another country and this was in addition to a prison sentence for driving offences it may not be possible for you to exchange your full foreign driving licence for a full driving licence here in Ireland.
The situation is different between Ireland and the UK (including Northern Ireland) for driving disqualifications for specified offences. This is provided for by Section 40 of the Road Traffic Act 2016, which came into operation from 1 August 2017.
Under this agreement between Ireland and the UK, if you hold an Irish licence and you are disqualified from driving for committing a serious offence in the UK, you may also be disqualified from driving in Ireland. The District Court can make an order to disqualify you from driving in Ireland for the offence that was committed in the UK. The same rules apply if you are driving in Ireland on an UK licence, although the UK authorities can disqualify you without taking separate court action.
What happens if I am driving on a foreign licence in Ireland?
Penalty points and other penalties work the same way if you are driving on a foreign driving licence. See our document on penalty points for driving offences for more information.
If you are driving in Ireland on a UK licence and you are disqualified from driving in Ireland, you may also be disqualified from driving in the UK. See ‘What happens if I commit a driving offence abroad?’ above for more information.
Can I get a copy of my driving licence record?
You can get a copy of your driving licence record from the National Driving Licence Service (NDLS). See ‘Useful contacts’ below for their details. There is a charge of €15.
Contact information for your local District Court and contact information for your local Circuit Court is located at the front of all public telephone directories and on the Courts Service website.