Penalty points - all you need to know

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Originally published March 27th 2015

We all dread getting points on our driving licence. But some people swerve the problem with a radical manoeuvre – they simply don’t bother having a licence in the first place.

One motorist from Lewisham in south-east London has managed to amass a huge 40 points for 12 different motoring offences, despite not holding either a full or provisional licence.

The Institute of Advanced Motorists (IMA) discovered the case after submitting a Freedom of Information request to the DVLA asking about for details of highest penalty point holders.

The Lewisham driver’s offences include speeding in a 30mph zone and driving without insurance. He is far from alone.

The second-highest penalty points holder with no licence is from the Stockport area, and has 33 penalty points for seven different offences.

These include repeatedly failing to disclose information as to the identity of the driver, and being caught speeding in a 30mph zone.

But it’s not just those who don’t have licences who rack up points, of course.

The highest points-holder in England and Wales is a man from Liverpool who holds 45 penalty points on a full driving licence.

He collected six points on five occasions for failing to provide information about the identity of the driver, and six points on three other occasions for speeding in a 30mph zone.

How do penalty points work?

When it comes to driving, points definitely don’t mean prizes.

If you’re convicted of a motoring offence, such as breaking the speed limit, you can be fined and your driving licence can be ‘endorsed’ with penalty points.

The more serious the offence you’ve committed, the more penalty points you’ll get.

For example, you’ll get three points if you’re caught using a vehicle with a defective tyre, but 10 points if you’re in charge of a vehicle with an alcohol level above the legal limit.

You have to declare any penalty points you get to your insurer. The more points you have, the higher your premiums will be.

Click here for a full list of motoring offences, conviction codes and penalty points.

These will stay on your licence for between four and 11 years, depending on what sort of offence you’ve committed.

For example, endorsements must stay on your licence for four years from the date of conviction if the offence:

  • is for reckless or dangerous driving
  • or if it results in disqualification.

If you haven’t been convicted, then endorsements must stay on your licence for four years from the date the offence was committed.

Points must stay on your licence for 11 years from the date of conviction if the offence is:

  • Drink driving or drug driving
  • Causing death by careless driving while under the influence of drink or drugs
  • Causing death by careless driving then failing to provide a specimen for analysis.

Once your points have expired, you can only remove them from your licence by sending it to DVLA and getting a new one.

Dirty dozen

If you build up 12 or more penalty points within a three-year period, you can be disqualified from driving.

A court will decide how long you can be disqualified for, but if you have 12 or more points you could be banned for:

  • 6 months if you’ve got 12 penalty points or more within 3 years
  • 12 months if you’ve got a second disqualification within three years
  • 2 years if you’ve got a third disqualification.

You’ll have to apply for a new licence and possibly take your test again if you’re disqualified from driving for more than 56 days.

If you’re a new driver, then your licence can be revoked if you get six or more points within two years of passing your test.

If this happens, you’ll have to apply for a new provisional licence and pass another theory and practical test to get your full licence back again.

If you’ve got points on your provisional licence, these will be carried over to your full licence when you pass your test.

Avoiding points

If you’re caught speeding, you’ll usually be fined £60 and have three penalty points applied to your licence.

But you may be able to avoid getting points on your licence by attending a half-day Speed Awareness course.

You’ll only be invited to take a course if, in the past three years, you haven’t been convicted of any other speeding offences, and if you didn’t exceed the legal limit by a stated amount.

If you complete the course, you won’t be fined or have any penalty points on your licence. You will have to pay to attend, though. The cost usually ranges from £60 to £100.

Premium punishment

Be aware that going on a speed awareness course might not protect you from higher insurance premiums.

You must let your insurer know about your offence, which means they could put up the cost of your cover – although probably not by as much as if you’d got points on your licence and not taken the course.

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