MOTORISTS in some Irish counties are almost twice as likely to get hit with penalty points for speeding or other dangerous driving behaviour than others.

Drivers in Kildare hold the sorry record as the country's most dangerous drivers, with 14.7% of all people in the county listed as having points, according to figures compiled by the Sunday Tribune.

By stark contrast, in Co Mayo just 7.4% of people have accumulated any points on their licence, despite that county's reputation for dangerous roads.

The figures appear to back up claims that motorists in heavily-populated and urban areas are most likely to be subject to speed checks.

Ironically, road fatalities and injuries tend to be at their highest in rural areas and on winding country roads where policing is far more difficult.

The counties with the worst penalty records were all in the province of Leinster, with Kildare leading the way, followed by Carlow (13.4%), Laois (13.4%), and Meath (12.9%).

Many of the affected motorists commute to Dublin and build up points on the main approach roads into the capital, where policing is at its heaviest.

The percentage of people in Dublin with points was just 10.8%, reflecting the fact that drivers are almost constantly faced with 50kph speed limits and heavy traffic.

The counties with the lowest number of penalty-point offenders are predominantly in the west and north-west, which are considered the most dangerous places to drive.

Mayo fared best with just 7.4% of drivers accruing points but Co Donegal was not far behind with a rate of 7.7%.

Co Monaghan was next at 7.8% with a surprising fourth place going to Limerick city (7.9%) where gardaí have perhaps other things on their mind.

The latest figures from the Road Safety Authority show that 646,050 people now have points on their licence.

However, more than 203,000 of those have got away with it because they had "no driver number", that is, they were driving a foreign-registered car or on a non-Irish licence.

Of the 443,000 Irish people who have had the points applied to their licence, the majority of them have been caught just once, usually for speeding.

Countrywide, just 194 people have reached the 12-point mark, which means an automatic six-month suspension of their licence.