Points on your licence?
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Penalty points explained

Penalty points (or 'endorsements') are placed on your licence if you commit a driving offence. They can affect your car insurance premiums, and if the add up within a certain period, you can be disqualified from driving. 

We'll go over exactly how points are acquired, how long they last, and how to get rid of them, in this guide.

In This Guide:

What are penalty points?

You are assigned penalty points if you are convicted of a driving offence. There are a whole host of things that you can get penalty points for, but the general rule is that the more serious your offence, the more points you will get. If you get too many in a certain period, you can be disqualified from driving completely.

Here are some examples of the kinds of offences that can cause you to have penalty points assigned, and the rough number of points you may be awarded for being convicted of each:

  • Speeding: 6-8
  • Driving under the influence: 3-11
  • Driving without insurance: 6-8
  • Failure to stop after an accident: 5-10
  • Dangerous driving: 3-11
  • Using a mobile phone while driving: 3-6

Driving a vehicle with defects: 3

  • Careless driving: 3-6
  • Driving while disqualified: 6
  • Causing death or serious injury by driving while disqualified: 3-11

When the points have expired, you can only get them removed from your licence by applying to the DVLA. You can check your points on the gov.uk website, you’ll need your national insurance number and your driving licence number.

How long do points stay on your license?

Penalty points remain 'valid' for a set period (usually three or ten years), which means they are active on your licence, and any more points you receive during that period will add to the total. They then remain on your licence for one further year, during which time a judge might take them into account if you commit a driving offense, but they don't tally up.

The amount of time that points remain valid for depends on the offence for which you earned them.

Most offenses will earn you points that remain on your license for four years (valid for three), including:

  • Failing to stop after an accident
  • Driving while disqualified
  • Careless driving (that does not cause death)
  • Construction and use offenses (e.g. driving with defective breaks or lights)

More serious offenses will earn points that remain for 11 years (valid for ten), including:

  • Careless driving that causes death
  • Drink or drug driving

For a full list of offences and the points they carry, visit gov.uk.

Disqualification

You will be disqualified from driving if you are assigned more than 12 points over a 3-year period. This will mean you cannot drive for a certain length of time. The courts will decide how long this period lasts, but as a rough guide you could be banned for:

  • 6 months if you rack up 12 or more points in 3 years.
  • 1 year if you the disqualification is your second in a 3-year period.
  • 2 years if it’s your third disqualification.

And you can’t go straight back to driving either. Provided your disqualification was more than 56 days (and it usually is), you’ll have to go through the process and cost of re-taking your driving test and securing a new driving licence.

It’s even more strict for new drivers. If you are still in your probationary period (2 years from the date you pass your driving test), you have a limit of 6 points. If you are assigned 6 or more points in these 2 years, you will have your licence taken away. You will have to start from the beginning by applying for a provisional licence and taking both your theory and practical driving test. Any points on your provisional licence carry over to your full licence after you pass your test.

How to avoid getting penalty points

The most common way of getting penalty points is from speeding. The standard result of a speeding conviction is a £60 fine and 3 points on your driving licence.

If you don’t want these points, they can be avoided by attending a Speed Awareness Workshop (SAW). This course costs anywhere between £60 and £100 and will take half a day of your time, but it does prevent both the fine and the points.

This option is only available if it is your first or only speeding conviction within the last 3 years, and only for drivers whose convictions are less serious. If you were breaking the speed limit by over a certain amount, you may incur a larger fine and may be assigned more points.

Penalty points and car insurance

Another drawback to penalty points is the effect they can have on your car insurance. You are obliged to let your provider know about your conviction. Your premiums will almost certainly get more expensive, and if you are uninsured or starting again after a disqualification, you may struggle to find a provider willing to cover you at all.

If your conviction was for speeding and you chose to attend a Speed Awareness Workshop, your insurance premiums may still increase, but it’s likely that they will not increase as much as if you had chosen to accept the assignment of points on your licence.

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