UK Penalty Points System Explained: How Many Points Means a Ban?

May 25, 2024 8:54 am
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As a driver in the UK, it’s crucial to understand the penalty points system and how it can affect your driving privileges. Accumulating too many points on your licence can lead to serious consequences, including driving bans and financial penalties. In this article, we’ll clarify how the UK penalty points system works, the number of points that can result in a ban, and the steps you can take to protect your licence.


What are Penalty Points?

Penalty points are a way for the UK’s Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) to penalise and deter drivers who commit traffic offences. When a driver is convicted of a motoring offence, such as speeding or running a red light, a certain number of points will be added to their driving record. These points serve as a record of the driver’s infraction and can accumulate over time.

The primary purpose of the penalty points system is to encourage safe and responsible driving habits. By assigning points for various offences, the DVLA aims to deter drivers from engaging in dangerous or reckless behaviour on the road. Accumulating too many points can lead to more severe consequences, such as fines and driving bans, which further reinforces the importance of following traffic laws and maintaining a clean driving record.


How Penalty Points are Issued

Penalty points are issued for a wide range of driving offences, with the number of points varying depending on the severity of the infraction. Some common offences and their corresponding penalty points include:



More serious offences, such as drink driving or causing death by dangerous driving, can result in immediate driving bans and even imprisonment, in addition to penalty points.

When a driver is caught committing a traffic offence, they will typically receive a Fixed Penalty Notice (FPN) or a summons to appear in court. The FPN will outline the offence, the associated penalty points, and any fines that must be paid. If the driver chooses to accept the FPN, the points will be added to their licence, and they must pay the fine within 28 days.

If the driver wishes to dispute the offence or if the offence is more serious, they may be summoned to appear in court. If found guilty, the court will decide on the appropriate number of penalty points and any additional penalties, such as fines or driving bans.

It’s important to note that penalty points remain on a driver’s licence for a set period, typically 4 years from the date of the offence. However, they are only considered “active” for the purposes of totting-up and driving bans for 3 years. After this period, the points become “spent” but will still appear on the driver’s record.


Accumulating Points and Driving Bans

The number of penalty points a driver can accumulate before facing a driving ban depends on the type of licence they hold and the period over which the points were received.

For most drivers, accumulating 12 or more penalty points within a 3-year period will result in a mandatory disqualification under the “totting-up” system. This means that if a driver receives 12 or more points on their licence from offences committed within a 3-year window, they will face a minimum 6-month driving ban.

However, there are some instances where a driver may be able to argue “exceptional hardship” to avoid a ban, even if they have accumulated 12 or more points. Exceptional hardship refers to situations where a driving ban would cause undue difficulty or hardship, such as losing one’s job or being unable to care for a dependent family member. To successfully argue exceptional hardship, a driver must present a compelling case in court and demonstrate that the consequences of a ban would be disproportionately severe.

It’s important to note that the exceptional hardship argument can only be used once within a 3-year period. Additionally, the court will consider the driver’s circumstances and the nature of the offences before deciding whether to grant an exemption from the ban.


New Drivers and the Penalty Points System

New drivers who have held their licence for less than 2 years are subject to stricter rules under the UK’s New Drivers Act. If a new driver accumulates 6 or more penalty points within this 2-year probationary period, their licence will be automatically revoked by the DVLA.

This means that new drivers have a lower threshold for losing their driving privileges compared to more experienced drivers. The purpose of this stricter system is to encourage new drivers to develop safe and responsible driving habits from the outset and to ensure that they face consequences for any early infractions.

If a new driver’s licence is revoked due to accumulating 6 or more points, they will need to reapply for a provisional licence and retake both the theory and practical driving tests to regain their full licence. This process can be time-consuming and costly, underscoring the importance of maintaining a clean driving record during the probationary period.

It’s crucial for new drivers to familiarise themselves with the rules of the road and to drive with extra caution to avoid accumulating penalty points. Seeking guidance from a qualified driving instructor or attending additional driver training courses can help new drivers develop the skills and knowledge needed to stay safe and avoid potential pitfalls.


Removing Points from Your Licence

Penalty points will remain on a driver’s licence for a set period, typically 4 years from the date of the offence. However, for the purposes of totting-up and driving bans, points are only considered “active” for 3 years.

After the 4-year period, the points will become “spent” and will no longer count towards the total number of active points on a driver’s licence. However, they will still appear on the driver’s record and can be taken into consideration by insurers when calculating premiums.

It’s important for drivers to regularly check their driving record to ensure that any penalty points have been recorded accurately and that spent points have been removed as appropriate. Drivers can access their driving record online through the DVLA website or by requesting a copy of their driver’s record from the DVLA.

If a driver believes that penalty points have been added to their licence in error, they can contact the DVLA or the court that issued the points to seek clarification or to appeal the decision. In some cases, points may be removed if the driver can provide evidence that they were not at fault or if there were mitigating circumstances that should have been taken into account.


Legal Assistance for Motoring Offences

If you find yourself facing penalty points or a potential driving ban, it’s highly advisable to seek the guidance of a specialised motoring law firm, such as Driving Solicitors. These experienced professionals can provide invaluable assistance in navigating the legal process and working to minimise the impact on your driving privileges.

A skilled motoring law solicitor can help in several key ways:


  1. Evaluating your case: A solicitor will review the details of your offence and the evidence against you to determine the strength of your case and the potential defences available.
  2. Negotiating with the court: In some cases, a solicitor may be able to negotiate with the court to reduce the number of penalty points or to argue for a shorter driving ban based on the specific circumstances of your case.
  3. Arguing exceptional hardship: If you are facing a totting-up ban and believe that a disqualification would cause undue hardship, a solicitor can help you build a compelling case to present in court. They can assist in gathering evidence and presenting arguments to demonstrate the severe impact a ban would have on your life and livelihood.
  4. Representing you in court: If your case goes to trial, a motoring law solicitor can provide expert representation, presenting your case in the best possible light and arguing for a favourable outcome on your behalf.
  5. Advising on the appeals process: If you wish to appeal a decision related to penalty points or a driving ban, a solicitor can guide you through the process and help you understand your chances of success.


Seeking legal assistance from a firm like Driving Solicitors can be particularly crucial for those who rely on their driving privileges for work or other essential responsibilities. By working with a knowledgeable solicitor, you can ensure that your rights are protected and that you have the best possible chance of maintaining your ability to drive.



The UK penalty points system plays a vital role in promoting safe and responsible driving habits. By assigning points for various traffic offences and imposing driving bans for those who accumulate too many points, the system aims to deter dangerous behaviour and keep our roads safe for all users.

As a driver, it’s essential to understand how the penalty points system works and the consequences of accumulating points on your licence. Familiarising yourself with the thresholds for a driving ban, the stricter rules for new drivers, and the process for removing spent points can help you make informed decisions and avoid potential pitfalls.

If you do find yourself facing penalty points or a potential driving ban, remember that you don’t have to navigate the process alone. Seeking the guidance of a specialised motoring law firm, like Driving Solicitors, can provide invaluable support and expertise when you need it most.

By understanding the rules of the road, driving responsibly, and seeking help when necessary, you can work to maintain a clean driving record and ensure that you can continue to enjoy the freedom and convenience of driving in the UK.