What are penalty points?

Penalty points are a form of punishment aimed to deter motorists from committing offences such as speeding and careless driving. Not all offences carry points, but most relatively minor motoring offences do, and often a range is available. For example, the offence of driving without due care and attention carries a penalty of 3 – 9 points, with the most severe offences falling within the top end of the range. Part 1 of schedule 2 to the Road Traffic Offenders Act 1988 highlights the number of penalty points available for each offence. The Gov.co.uk website also has a useful summary of the offence codes and applicable penalty points.  

Some of the most common driving offences are highlighted below:

OffencePenalty points
Failing to stop after an accident5 – 10
Failing to report an accident5 – 10
Driving without due care and attention3 – 9
Driving without reasonable consideration for other road users3 – 9
Using a vehicle with defective tyre(s)3
Using a mobile phone whilst driving6
Failing to co-operate with a preliminary test4
Driving otherwise than in accordance with a valid licence3 – 6
Failing to identify the driver6
Speeding3 – 6
Failing to comply with a traffic sign3

How long do penalty points last?

Penalty points count for sentencing purposes for 3 years, although they appear on the driver record for 4 years.

How many penalty points can I have on my driving licence?

The number of points you can have on your driving licence without being at risk of losing your licence depends on whether you are a new or experienced driver.

New drivers:

If you have held your licence for less than two years, then the maximum number of penalty points you can have on your licence is 5 points. If you reach 6 penalty points on your driving licence, then your licence will be automatically revoked by the DVLA under the Road Traffic (New Drivers) Act 1995. If this happens, you’ll have to re—take your practical and theory tests before you’re able to drive again.

In certain circumstances, it is possible to avoid the revocation of your licence as a new driver if you commit an offence which could put you on 6 points within the first two years of driving. Due to the technical nature of this legal argument, we would urge you to contact one of our specialist motoring lawyers for assistance if you find yourself in this position.

If you’ve been driving for more than 2 years:

If you’ve been driving for more than 2 years, then you can have up to 11 penalty points without losing your driving licence. If, however you commit a further offence which would result in a total of 12 or more penalty points on your licence within a 3-year period, then you will be liable to a totting up disqualification under Section 35 of the Road Traffic Offenders Act 1988.

Penalty points are counted from the date of the offence, not the date when the sentence is imposed. Therefore, if you committed an offence within 3 years of your last offence, then even if those penalty points would fall outside the 3-year threshold by the time the latest offence gets to Court, they would still count towards the totting up disqualification you’re facing.

It is possible to avoid the usual 6 months disqualification from driving under the totting up regime by putting forward legal arguments in Court therefore we would urge you to get in touch with one of our totting up specialists if you find yourself in this unfortunate position.


If you commit several offences on the same occasion (for example driving without a licence, driving without insurance and speeding) then you should be sentenced in accordance with the principal of totality under Section 28 of the Road Traffic Offender’s Act 1988, meaning that you should only get one set of points for the whole incident. More information about the sentencing principle of totality can be found on the sentencing council website here.

Will I receive penalty points or a ban?

The most severe motoring offences such as drink driving, and dangerous driving attract an automatic obligatory disqualification from driving. Other offences, such as careless driving attract a range of penalty points as described above, or a discretionary disqualification from driving. You cannot receive penalty points and a disqualification for the same offence. The case of Martin v DPP highlights that it’s either one or the other.

How can I check the number of points on my licence?

You can check the number of points on your licence by using the Gov.co.uk view driving licence service. You’ll need your driving licence number, national insurance number, and the postcode on your driving licence.

I’ve committed an offence which carries penalty points, what should I do?

If you’ve committed an offence which carries a fixed penalty such as 3 points for speeding or 6 points for using a mobile phone whilst driving and accepting those points won’t put you at risk of losing your driving licence, then the simplest solution is to accept the fixed penalty offer. If, however you’ve committed an offence which carries a range of penalty points such as careless driving (3 – 9 penalty points) or failing to stop after an accident (5 – 10 penalty points), or if accepting a fixed penalty would risk your licence (as a new driver or a totter), then you should contact one of our specialist motoring offence lawyers as soon as possible to discuss our damage limitation guilty plea and mitigation service. All of our specialist solicitors are experts in driving offences and have saved countless motorists from losing their licence after incurring too many penalty points. It’s important to get in touch as soon as you become aware of the offence being committed so that we can immediately begin work on your case. Call one of our specialist driving offence solicitors today on 0330 333 77 220 to discuss the details of your case and finds out if your licence can be saved. Lines are open round the clock so get in touch at a time which suits you.