Although they’re such a major part of life today for motorists, penalty points weren’t introduced to the UK until 1988. The idea was to use the threat of points as a deterrent so that drivers could see how their unsafe driving was leading them towards disqualification, which occurs automatically if they reach 12 points. Getting points is a useful wake up call to encourage drivers to modify their behaviour.
However, although a few points on your licence won’t lead to disqualification from driving (we’ll cover that later) when it comes to car insurance penalty points can be costly. Recent research estimates that just 3 points can put up your annual premium by £209 .
What Are Penalty Points?
Penalty points can be given by the police or by the court. They are also known as ‘endorsements’ and can be given for a very wide range of motoring offences of varying severity. The number of points depends on the seriousness of the fault and it can take two or three offences to reach the disqualification level of 12 points. However, in theory, if you were to be caught speeding several times during one journey you could accrue enough points to lose your licence in one go.
According to the Department of Transport 72% of points are given for speeding offences, 12% for offences regarding insurance or licence issues and 4% for dangerous or drink driving . The minimum penalty if you are caught speeding is a fine of £100 and three penalty points. Unless your speeding was extreme, you may be given the option of taking a National Speed Awareness Course instead of the three points. The court may decide to offer you the choice, but it’s not automatic.
Other common offences punishable with points, in whole or in part, include dangerous or careless driving, using a mobile phone while driving, driving without insurance or under the influence of alcohol or drugs, driving a defective vehicle and failing to stop after an accident.
According to research, 2.69 million UK drivers have at least three penalty points, while 80,000 have nine .
How Are Penalty Points Issued?
It is usually the police who issue penalty points. The vast majority of offences relate to breaking the speed limit and there are several ways in which you can be caught including fixed cameras, parked speeding vans and an officer using a speed gun. Sometimes a police officer will simply see you exceeding the limit and pull you over. You might be let off with a verbal warning but equally, you could be given an on-the-spot fine and, if you have your licence with you, you could receive points immediately. Otherwise, you’ll be required to bring your licence to the local police station within seven days for the endorsements to be added.
As a general rule, penalty points remain on your licence for 4 years. The most common offences are speeding or lowering your concentration and control of the vehicle by an activity like using your mobile phone. In 2021 more than 145,000 drivers in the UK were found to have committed these lower-level offences.
For more serious violations, the points can remain on your licence for up to 11 years. These include drink or drug driving offences and those which result in the death of another driver or pedestrian.
How Do Penalty Points Affect your Licence?
Since the points can stay on your licence for 4-11 years, it means your driving record will remain compromised for the entire period. If you collect further penalty points during the three years after receiving the first, they will be added to the existing ones. In theory, therefore, you could receive 6 points, stay out of trouble for almost 3 years then commit an offence which attracts a further 6 points and be disqualified just when you expected your licence to be wiped clean.
It’s worth noting that if you have accrued 9 points, then you can cannot accept any more fixed penalty notices and must attend court.
12 points result in an automatic ban. The rules on disqualification are as follows:
12 points or more in 3 years equals a 6-month ban
a second disqualification within 3 years will be a 1-year ban
a third disqualification within 3 years will be a 2-year ban
In some cases, when your disqualification period ends, you may have to take a new driving test and pay for a new licence. If you’re a newly qualified driver and you pick up just 6 points in the first 2 years you can be banned and compelled to take your practical and theory tests again.
This is an extremely important question to which most drivers pay very little attention. The inconvenience of disqualification and the cost of fines are well understood, but the relationship between insurance and penalty points is potentially more significant. The impact of penalty points on the cost of insurance can actually be higher than most fines and it could take several years for premiums to come back down to the pre-offence level.
A lot of research has been carried out to quantify the financial effect and the consensus is that if you collect 3 penalty points, your insurance could increase by about 5%. However, for more serious effects on your car insurance 6 penalty points are considerable, pushing this up by as much as 25%. In addition, you’re likely to find that a smaller number of companies will be prepared to offer you insurance.
The research also suggests that while 3 points can increase your annual insurance by £209, if you get 6 points it can go up by £400 to an average of £1,159. Insurers consider a large number of risk factors when calculating insurance premiums. These include the age and value of your car, any modifications, your annual mileage and where you live. As you can see, there are many influences at play, but having points on your licence is always going to have a negative impact and end up costing you more.
There’s no way around it. When you take out insurance, you are legally obliged to disclose any points on your licence. While an insurance policy is in place, you also have a contractual obligation to inform your insurer if you are given points. If you try to keep them secret, you could invalidate your insurance, not only exposing yourself to financial risk but also being automatically guilty of driving without insurance.
If you’re taking out a new policy, then most insurance companies will carry out their own checks on your driving record and any unspent convictions, like any previous claims, will be easily discovered.
The Average Insurance Increases for Common Driving Offences
There is a very long list of driving offence codes and it’s highly unlikely that the average motorist will be familiar with them. However, in order to give you an idea as to how the different types of offence will affect your insurance, here’s a brief overview.
SP codes represent speeding violation. SP30 is speeding on a public road, SP50 is speeding on a motorway and SP10 is speeding in a goods vehicle. DR and DG codes are for drink and drug driving offences while CU codes apply to the breach of requirements regarding control of the vehicle, including mobile phone use. The average increases are:
For an SP offence, 3 points will, on average, raise your costs by 23%, 6 points by 46% and 9 points by 70%. The maximum increase for each is 26%, 50% and 75% respectively.
For a CU offence, 3 points will, on average, put the price up by 42%, 6 points by 55% and 9 points by a massive 135%. The maximums are 72%, 86% and 152% respectively.
It’s clear from this that insurers take speeding violation very seriously. They are even harder on offences that compromise your control of your vehicle.
As for DR and DG offences, there are broadly in line with CU offences. Again, loss of control is the decisive element.
Although for many offences, the points are given in threes, there is a degree of discretion, especially for the courts. Although we’ve focused on the 3, 6 and 9 thresholds, bear in mind that if you are given, for example, 4 penalty points insurance costs will rise proportionately – not by as much as 6 but probably more than 3.
The 5 Most Common Motoring Offences Committed by Men and Women
Another factor which can affect your insurance premiums is whether you are male or female. This is because there are identifiably different behaviour patterns between the two. The old, mysogynistic myth about women being worse drivers than men is thoroughly discredited by all the evidence!
Speeding convictions on public roads for men are more than twice the number of those for women. On motorways, they are three times higher. Men are three times more likely to commit a drink or drug driving offence and four times more likely to engage in an activity which impairs their control of the vehicle. It’s a full house, and male drivers are the bigger losers
How Can I Make a Driving Licence Points Check?
It’s important to be aware of your points status so you need to know how to conduct a driving license points check. Thanks to the increasing digitalisation of government departments and agencies, it’s very easy to check points on licence records that are held by the DVLA. Using the online service at https://www.viewdrivingrecord.service.gov.uk/driving-record/licence-number you can quickly carry out your own driver licence points check. All you need is your licence number, national insurance number and postcode. You’ll see four tabs, the third of which is ‘Penalties and disqualifications’. Click on this tab and you’ll see the date of the offence, the office or court that issued the points, the offence code, the number of points, their expiry date and their removal date. This simple drivers license points check is something that any new insurance company will carry out for themselves and you can give them access to your record by giving them a share code you obtain from the same site.
Unfortunately the short answer is that you can’t. Once they are on your record, they won’t be removed until they expire. You can’t pay a fee or do anything else to change that. You simply have to wait. However, never forget that you have these endorsements because, as we’ve seen, if you pick up more points your insurance premium will rise and you’ll get that much closer to disqualification.
How Do I Find Affordable Insurance with Points on my Licence?
You’re going to have to accept that points on your licence will inflate the cost of insurance and reduce your choice of insurer. However, even with the most serious offences on your record, insurance will still be available and there are measures you can take to minimise the increase. You could consider having a telematics black box fitted, agree to a higher excess in the event of a claim, add a second named driver with a clean record, make your car more secure and select a different form of cover such as third party instead of comprehensive. Whatever else you do, remember to shop around. It’s a highly competitive market so make sure you explore all the options before making a decision. You might be pleasantly surprised with what you find.
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