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Penalty points explained

Penalty points encourage safe driving and help maintain the safety of roads in the UK. However, if you end up with penalty points on your driving license they can have a massive effect both on your ability to drive and to get insured. As a driver, you’ll want to avoid them at all costs, so this guide tells you all you need to know about penalty points: how to get them and avoid them, what happens if you do get them, and the impact that they can have on what you’ll pay for your insurance.

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

Depending on your conviction, points will remain on your licence for between 4 and 11 years. If you commit dangerous or reckless driving, it will be 4 years from the date of conviction. Points remain on your licence for 11 years for more serious convictions, for example drink and drug driving or causing death by dangerous driving while under the influence.

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.


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.

If you are struggling to find cover to start driving again, you can try using our free online car insurance comparison tool to get quotes and give you some idea of the cost to get you covered. There are also specialist insurers that cover those convicted of driving offences, but the premiums can be much more expensive.

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