The new Irish driving licenses

Road safety authorities in Ireland have begun a major crackdown on scam motorists, by outlawing a number of key loopholes used to get off penalty points.

Ireland's penalty point system was introduced in 2002 as a further disincentive for vehicle users to rack up driving offences.

In addition to fixed charges for each offence, motorists also accumulate 'penalty points', which stay on all licences, whether full, provisional, or overseas.

If twelve such points are accumulated over a three year period, the motorists faces an automatic six month disqualification from driving -- not to mention limited employability and greatly increased insurance premiums.

Sixty nine driving offences currently incur such points, ranging from two point offences like speeding to more serious five point ones like dangerous or reckless driving.

For many years, however, motorists have been availing of a loophole in the Irish motoring code to avail themselves of a carte blanche to rack up as many points as they wish.

Once issued with penalty points, motorists would simply apply for a new driving licence using a slightly altered version of their name, according to the Irish Independent.

Favored tactics included the creation of a middle name, a change of spelling in the forename or surname, or even abbreviating the first name.

Other drivers held both national and foreign driving licences and presented only the foreign one each time points were accumulated -- leaving one licence 'full' and 'clean'.

Motorists could also simply claim that their licence had been "lost", according to Noel Brett, the new licensing authority's chief executive.

The major flaw arose because of a technical issue with the national database for Irish driving documentation, according to a truckers' website.

Ireland has recently moved to a credit card style driving licence, as used in the UK and US, which are more difficult to forge than their paper analogues.

The new licences are also recognized throughout the European Union and are similar in appearance to those issued by other member states.

The credit card sized driving permits will be warmly welcomed by most Irish young people: the fact that they will fit into a wallet will mean one less thing to carry on a night out, as alongside a national police age card, the ID remains the predominant form of identification for entry to nightclubs and other licensed premises.

Pharmacists, however, are not so happy, and have hit out at the new driving licences, saying that the smaller photo sizes will rob them of what was traditionally a key line of business for them: identification photography.

Speaking to an Irish news website, a pharmacists' union boss said that she would have "serious concerns" for how the new move would effect traders.

The scam isn't the first time Irish motor licences have been in the news in the last number of years.

A Dublin motor licence office was found to have been issuing a number of illegal licences to people who hadn't even passed a driving test in 2011.

Up to 28 foreign nationals were issued with licences they had not earned.