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Penalty points are like the naughty step for drivers. Except, they come with serious consequences. They last a few years and can even get you banned from driving altogether.

That’s right – once these babies go on your licence, you’ll struggle to get rid of them. And they add up quickly. For instance, if you’re driving uninsured, you could get slapped with 6 points. If you get 12 points, you could be disqualified from driving altogether.

Moral of the story: avoid penalty points like a plague of locusts. And get insured at all costs. There’s no excuse, with quick and flexible temporary car insurance policies that provide cover in minutes.

Want the lowdown on penalty points? Keep reading.

Person in orange with blue car and trees and sun in the background.

What are penalty points?

Penalty points, also known as endorsements, are basically the modern day version of the scarlet letter. You won’t have to wear a scarlet “A” for the rest of your life, but, in the eyes of insurers and the law alike, you’ve been marked! And that comes with consequences.

These points are assigned by the courts when you’re convicted of a motoring offence. The number of points depends on what offence was committed; for example, driving without due care or attention carries anywhere between 3 to 9 points. The more serious the offence, the more points you’ll have added to your licence.

Once assigned, these points ‘endorse’ your driving record and stay there for either 4 or 11 years, depending on how serious the offence was. If too many points pile up (12 or more within 3 years), then you could find yourself disqualified from driving for anywhere between six months to 2 years too.

There are lots of different offences that carry penalty points. Some of the most common ones include speeding, driving uninsured, not stopping at traffic lights, and being on your phone while driving.

Here is a non-exhaustive table showing some of the offences that could land you with penalty points, as well as the penalty points you can expect. 

Offence  Penalty Points 
Speeding  3 to 6 
Driving an uninsured car  6 to 8 
Not complying with traffic light signals 
Not stopping at a “stop” sign 
Using a mobile phone while driving  3 to 6 
Using a car with defective tyres 
Driving without a licence  3 to 6 
Leaving a car in a dangerous position 
Driving, or trying to drive, while drunk  3 to 11 (though a ban is more likely)
Causing death by careless driving  3 to 11 
Causing serious injury by driving dangerously  3 to 11 

How long do 3 penalty points last?

It probably won’t shock you to learn that there’s no straightforward answer to this question. Depending on the offence that led to the penalty points, they could stay on your licence for 4 years or 11 years.

For instance, if you got 3 points because you used a car with defective brakes, then the “endorsement” will last 4 years. But, if you get caught driving under the influence, then your points will typically last 11 years. The government website outlines how long you can expect to have your points on your licence depending on your offence. Courts may take your points into account if they’re still on your record and you commit another offence, so it’s worth knowing.

You should also bear in mind that people like employers and insurers can access this information within certain time frames. For example, any time during a 4-year endorsement or the first 5 years of an 11-year endorsement (or first 30 months if you’re under 18). 

Bottom line is: if you find yourself slapped with penalty points, expect them to be around for a while — like really a while! Stick to the rules so these pesky little things don’t come back to haunt you later on down the road.

Man with blue hatchback car with trees and the sun in the background

What is a probation period and who does it affect?

Every new driver in the UK is affected by the dreaded probation period. As soon as you pass your driving test in the UK, you enter a two-year probationary period. And if you get 6 or more points within 2 years of passing your test, your licence will be automatically revoked. Yup, just like that.

Then you have to go through the whole palaver of applying for a new provisional licence, and passing the theory and practical part of your test. Yup, you have to do it all again. 

It can be tempting to act like an F1 driver once you get behind the wheel when you first pass your test. But don’t let the thrill of freedom overtake common sense – driving recklessly is dangerous and could land you with serious consequences.

How do I check my penalty points online?

If you have penalty points on your licence, you’ll probably know about them. But if you’re unsure exactly how many points you have, it’s super easy to check.

First off, you’ll need a few bits of info: your driving licence number, National Insurance number and the postcode that’s on your licence.

Once you’ve got these handy dandy details, head straight over to the government website and enter them in the relevant fields. You’ll be able to check your endorsement details online in seconds.

Can I appeal penalty points?

“I wasn’t there”, “I wasn’t driving that fast”, “I didn’t know my insurance had lapsed”, “My hamster ate my driving licence”. The list of suggested reasons for not wanting to accept points is endless. But there may be instances where you genuinely feel that they should not apply to you. So, what do you do?

You can’t necessarily “appeal” your penalty points. You’re given penalty points when you’re convicted of a motoring offence. In some instances, you might be able to request to re-open the case if you believe the court has made a mistake, for example.  But, you may need to consult a lawyer to build your case for more complex appeals.

Can I avoid penalty points if I’ve committed an offence?

In some cases, you might be given the option to attend a course to avoid getting a fine or penalty points on your licence. So, if you’ve been caught speeding for instance, you might be able to take the National Speed Awareness Course.

But that course is generally only available to people who’ve committed minor speeding offences. And you’ll generally be referred by the police. If you complete the course, you won’t need to pay a fine or get penalty points on your licence.

Blue hatchback car with trees and the sun in the background

What do penalty points mean for my car insurance?

When it comes to how penalty points affect your car insurance, there’s no definitive answer – each provider has their own policy when it comes to accepting drivers with penalty points on their licence. Some will automatically increase the price of premiums and some might refuse cover altogether.

No matter how many points you have on your licence or what kind of offence it was for (yes, even if it was just that one time you got caught with worn tyres), having them is likely going to have some effect on your car insurance premium – either in terms of increased cost or by insurers refusing cover completely.

And, under the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act, penalty points and endorsements are treated as a sentence and therefore only become spent after 5 years. Even if the penalty points stay on your licence for 4 years, insurers will be able to access this info for a minimum of 5 years after you’ve been convicted.

With this in mind, you might think it’s tempting to withhold information about the points on your licence. But it’s really easy for insurers to find out how many “endorsements” you’ve got. And while you might get lower quotes if you lie, your insurer will probably clock on to the fact that you’ve withheld important information pretty quickly.

When that happens, your whole policy might be invalidated – making getting insurance really difficult, really expensive, or both. Additionally your premium might be increased, if you’ve made a claim, you might not get your claim paid out at all, or a claim amount might be reduced. It’s just not worth it.

So, if you’ve got any penalty points and are looking at taking out car insurance soon, make sure you shop around. It’s more important than ever to compare quotes so you can get the best deal possible. 

UK driving licence penalty points: An overview

So, when it comes to penalty points on your UK driving licence, it pays to be a responsible driver! If you rack up too many points, you could end up getting disqualified or losing your licence altogether. And even a few points can result in hefty car insurance premium hikes

In the other hand, if you manage to stay safe and free from penalty points, then you’ll be able to show off your clean driving record and get cheaper car insurance premiums. So don’t forget – drive smart or pay the price!