The Road Safety Authority (RSA) considers motorists inexperienced until they have driven over 100,000km in all traffic and weather conditions.

That means it would take a driver an estimated seven years to complete.

Therefore, newly qualified drivers in Ireland have to display an N plate on their car.

And in the last six years, new drivers have wondered what the N plate means and the expectations on them as new drivers.

Here’s everything you need to know.

How long do I have to display an N plate after passing my driving test?

Drivers will have to display their novice ‘N’ plate for two years after passing their test.

What about penalty points?

As a new driver, the penalty points system is a lot more stringent.

That’s because statistically, newly qualified drivers are at more risk of collisions.

While a fully licenced driver can receive up to 12 penalty points before being banned from driving for six months, an N plate driver faces a ban with significantly fewer penalty points.

A novice driver who receives 7 penalty points in three years will be banned from driving for six months.

And be careful about alcohol intake too; N plate drivers are penalized at much lower alcohol levels than experienced drivers.

The drink-drive limit for N plate drivers (for two years after passing the driving test) is 20 milligrams (mg) of alcohol per 100 millilitres of blood.

An N plate driver tested and found to be above the 20mg limit (but less than 80mg), will be served with an on-the-spot fixed penalty notice, receive a fine of €200 and be disqualified from holding a driving licence for three months.


Normal driver Learner, Novice & professional drivers Minimum disqualification periods for 1st offence within 3 years Minimum disqualification periods for 2nd or subsequent offence  
BAC < 80mg 50+ to 80mg 20+ to 80mg 3 Months 1 year
BAC > 80mg 80+ to 100mg 1 year 2 years
100+ to 150mg 2 years 4 years
150+mg 3 years 6 years



In addition to disqualification, regime for court fines & imprisonment: Maximum fine of €5000 and/or 6 months in prison.


Although you might think these rules are unfair, they’re designed to protect the most vulnerable group of road users in Ireland; you, the newly qualified driver.

And of course the best way to avoid any problems is to ‘Never Ever Drink and Drive’.

The plates alert other road users too.

Your N plates alert other road users that you’re a new driver.

That means they may choose to drive a little further behind you than usual to give you space to drive.

It should also mean if you have to brake suddenly, drivers will be far enough behind and have time to react.

Displaying your N plates tells the world, “I’m an inexperienced driver, please be cautious and patient with me while I learn!”

N plates serve as a reminder to you, the driver, of the expectations on you.

Statistically, one in five newly qualified drivers will crash in the six months after passing their test.

As a result, you can see why alerting other road users to your Novice status as a driver is essential for everyone’s safety.

The N plate is a legal requirement. And with your N plate comes specific responsibilities.

Since being brought into law six years ago, new drivers have to display their N plates at the front and back of their car.

Rectangular plates or signs bearing the letter N should be “not less than 15 centimetres high in red on a white ground in clearly visible vertical positions to the front and rear of the vehicle”.

Failure to do so could result in a fine up to €1,000 and penalty points.

N plate holders cannot accompany learner drivers either.

And remember.

The law isn’t designed to curtail your new driving adventures.

The aim is to keep you – and other road users – safe while you gain vital experience on busy roads.

By the time you are ready to take down your N plates, you’ll be a much more experienced, accomplished and confident driver.

Keep up to date with all the latest Irish driving news HERE.