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Penalty points and driving bans

A new, updated computer system is online from October 2013, which will improve data sharing on driving offences and reduce the number of drivers on the road who have many more than the accrued maximum of 12 points.

The 12 point ban

Penalty points are issued for a range of driving offences, ranging from standard speeding offences to using your mobile phone while driving or refusing to disclose the name of the driver at the time of an offence. For most drivers, accumulating 12 penalty points on their driving licence within 3 years means an automatic driving ban for 12 months. However, while many people think that this is automatic, it is actually at the discretion of the court.

Drivers with over 12 points

While cases of drivers who have more than 12 points on their drivers licence, yet are still legally allowed to drive, are unusual, they are far from rare. Extreme cases regularly make the headlines, such as the woman from Isleworth who accumulated 42 points, or the Cheshire man who ended up with 36 points when police caught him driving without valid insurance, and then caught him again a further six times over the following two months. Not quite all so extreme, but there are hundreds more drivers with over 12 points on their licences who are still driving in every region of the country. So how does this happen?

Special circumstances for avoiding disqualification

According to the DVLA, ‘the courts are able to use their discretion to decide whether or not to disqualify a driver’. In other words, a ban is not automatic when you reach 12 points. This is not for the DVLA to decide, it is up to the presiding magistrate to assess each case. According to the HM Courts and Tribunal Service, ‘the vast majority’ will receive the standard 12 month driving ban on their drivers licence, but it is not an automatic sanction.

If you can show that a ban would cause ‘exceptional hardship’ either financially, through losing your job or being unable to work in your own business, or personally, such as being unable to transport a disabled child or relative, then a ban may be waived and a larger fine imposed.

That said, if you use the exceptional hardship excuse and get away without a ban, it will be much harder to use it again if you accrue more points within three years. Most of the high profile cases discussed above are failings of the system to share data, rather than examples of exceptionally lenient judges. Hopefully, the new computer system will address these failings.

As the Institute of Advanced Motorists chief executive, Simon Best says “When drivers with ten speeding offences are still able to hold a licence, the changes cannot come quickly enough”.

If you have more than 12 points on your drivers licence and have slipped through the system, then look out. As the new computers come online in October, Big Brother will be watching you much more closely.

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