The Road Safety Authority has suggested that the period of a learner permit be reduced for people who repeatedly renew it without taking a driving test.

125,000 learner permit holders who obtained their first licence between 1984 and 2016 have never taken a driving test, according to figures obtained by The Irish Times.

Learner permit holders can renew their permit once they have booked a test, but there is no requirement that they actually take the test.

Road safety groups have expressed concern over the number of long-term drivers on the road who have not taken their driving test.

Today the road safety group PARC said they were shocked by the figures and called on the rules to be changed so that a driver had to sit their test in order to get a licence renewal.

They also accused the RSA of simply not doing enough to tackle what they say is people gaming the system.

The CEO of the Authority acknowledged the figures were stark and said they have recently submitted a number of proposals to the Department of Transport to tackle this particular issue.

Speaking on RTÉ's Today with Miriam O'Callaghan, Moyagh Murdock said that while the law around learner permits has changed in recent years, the culture has not.

She said that prior to 2010 it was permissible to drive unaccompanied on a second provisional licence - the system that preceded the learner permit - but now permit holders must be accompanied at all times.

Ms Murdock said steps have been taken to reduce waiting times for tests, with an average waiting time of eight weeks nationwide, and as low as four to five weeks in some centres.

She said: "The figures are quite stark. We weren't aware there are that many [people] still driving around without having made any attempt at passing the test.

"I think the frustrating bit is that people do not show up for their test, they just book it, get their learner permit reviewed and forget all about it."

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"That is frustrating when they have lots of people who genuinely want to pass the test who are waiting on a test appointment for a long time," she added.

Ms Murdock added that there is an element of personal responsibility, claiming people are happy to pay higher insurance premiums while on a learner permits.

"We hear a lot of rhetoric out there complaining about the cost of insurance, but yet they are not taking any steps to address that when they can easily come down in price," she said.

She said the RSA has submitted suggestions to the Department of Transport that a learner permit for someone on their fourth or subsequent permit would only last for six months, rather than a year.

It has also suggested the cost of fourth and subsequent permits be increased from €35 to at least €50.

However, she added that when you see people who are prepared to pay significantly more for their insurance premiums, "those measures probably aren't adequate".

A spokesperson for the Department of Transport said Minister Shane Ross was considering the suggestions in light of the need to eliminate the backlog of long-term learners, while not simultaneously creating a further financial barrier to driving.