In the United Kingdom (and many other countries), driving penalty points and fines are added to your driving licence when you break the law on public roads. The number of points added to a motorist’s driving licence once they’re convicted depends on the severity of the traffic offense committed, if you accumulate too many penalty points you’re highly likely to be banned from driving altogether for a set period of time (as ruled in a court of law).
In the event you do commit a traffic offense, you will either be prosecuted by the courts or receive a fixed penalty notice, both of which generally result in points being added to your driving licence. Depending on the offence committed penalty points remain active on your driving licence between 4 and 11 years.
A fixed penalty notice is used in well-defined cases, a good example is a speeding offence (SP30) that’s caught on a fixed or mobile speed camera. Fixed penalty notice’s save courts the time that would have otherwise been used in prosecuting drivers, so receiving a fixed penalty notice means that you have still broken the law, but you will not be heading to court to answer for the charges in question.
Penalty points and fines were invented as a means of trying to reduce the number of dangerous and reckless drivers on public roads. For example, if you accumulate more than 12 penalty points on your driving licence then you can be banned from driving for up to three years.
If you are caught for a first-time speeding offense that wasn’t way above the limit for that area, you may have the option of attending a speed awareness course instead of having point added to your license, however, the fine for the offence still needs to be paid in full regardless.
New drivers however, require fewer points to get disqualified from driving, any driver passing their tests less than two years ago only have a 6 penalty point limit before disqualification, they are also at risk of having their licence revoked altogether!
There are a variety of traffic offenses that could lead to points on your driving license, and the most common include speeding, use of a mobile phone while driving, driving without due care or attention and driving under the influence of alcohol.
Some of the other common offences motorists should be aware of are using a car with defective brakes, steering or tyres (3pts), leaving the scene of an accident (5-10pts), parking at a precarious location (3 pts) and driving an uninsured vehicle (6-8pts).
Based on the guidelines, local authorities will decide on the number of points added to your licence and whether the driver should attend a driver awareness course. All points are uploaded to the national database (DVLA) that holds all UK driving licence records.
When drivers get more than 12 points within 3 years, they can be banned from driving on public roads altogether. Points for most traffic offences usually stay on your licence between 3 to 4 years, so it is possible to be driving around with more than 12 points if the offenses are stretched out between each conviction.
The court then decides on the period that the driver should stay banned for, with 6 months being the average ban length for having accrued more than 12 penalty points. In the event that you get a second ban within a 3 year period, the ban duration is doubled to 12 months and then further doubled to 2 years if you commit yet another offense within 3 years.
Penalty points impact heavily on your car insurance policy premiums, the more points you have on your licence, the more it affects the amount you’re charged for vehicle insurance. As a matter of fact, your motor insurance premiums could increase even if convicted of a traffic offence without necessarily having points added to your licence.
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Therefore, it is extremely important to notify your insurer of any prior convictions, failure to do so could result in the invalidation of your insurance policy and leaving you without cover in the event of an accident, potentially resulting in incurring even more penalty points!
There is no way of removing points from your licence apart from waiting for them to automatically expire, it takes 4 years for most offenses to clear and up to 11 years for the most grievous driving offenses. After this time has elapsed, points will automatically be removed from your licence without any further action required from you.
Whether you work in the motor trade industry selling new and used cars, mobile valeting or replacing window screens, maybe your just an everyday motorist commuting to and from work, abiding by the law, with the understanding of how penalty points and fines work is important for everyone’s road safety, keeping your own license clean and valid, whilst ensuring you get the best possible price on your next private or motor trade insurance policy.