Testing times: the new syllabus will be compulsory for all new learner drivers from 4 April

The new '12-hour' driving syllabus which will be compulsory for all new learner drivers from April will in reality require an average of 24 hours of instruction if it is to be completed properly, the country's leading driving school has claimed.

At an estimated cost of €30 an hour for a block of driving lessons with an accredited instructor, this could leave learner drivers facing a bill of €720 or more if they wish to adequately complete the Road Safety Authority's new programme.

The Essential Driver Training (EDT) syllabus is aimed at raising driving standards in a bid to red­uce the number of fatal accidents.

According to a draft lesson plan sent to driving instructors last week, as part of the syllabus learner drivers will be required to demonstrate they have learned to drive "calmly" and know how to deal with "peer pressure" and other distractions.

The new syllabus also focuses on areas such as night-time driving, anticipation and reaction as well as "speed management" skills.

However, the Irish School of Motoring said it would be impossible for most new drivers to complete the new syllabus adequately in just 12 hour-long lessons, as envisaged in the draft syllabus.

Instead, it estimated the course content would require an average of 24 hours' tuition – with some drivers requiring significantly more instruction.

Others in the industry privately indicated it could take some learner drivers up to 40 hours of instruction to cover all of the areas identified in the lesson plan. This would cost €1,200.

This is compared to the estimated €320 for completing the course in the obligatory 12 lessons, which the RSA believes is possible.

An ISM spokesman said it welcomed the initiative to introduce compulsory lessons for new drivers here.

"But for a beginner, it is almost impossible to do this in 12 lessons with somebody who has never driven at all. It is unworkable, really," he said. "The document itself is very well thought out, but the timing to complete the lessons is the main problem we have."

EDT, which will be compulsory for all first-time learner permit applicants from 4 April next, is intended to focus on the specific areas which are most associated with accident and injury.

The draft programme also includes a lesson entitled "Drive calmly" which aims to ensure the learner can "remain in calm control of the vehicle in situations where they may experience frustration or exasperation or feel threatened".

Among the "expected outcomes" would be that the learner could explain how they would deal with peer pressure or other distraction and also explain "what might cause them to be unfit to drive". This includes alcohol, drugs, lack of sleep and "heightened emotions".

An RSA spokesman said he was confident the lesson plan could be completed in 12 hours of instruction. "We wouldn't have recommended it if this was not the case," he said.