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Picture this: After a stressful few months of prep, you’ve finally passed your driving test and can hit the road with your new set of wheels.

Maybe your mum’s arranged temporary car insurance to pick up the car you bought while you look for an annual policy, or maybe you’re sorted with a policy already.

You’ve got your new driver’s playlist picked out, you’ve just bought the “new car scent” air freshener and you can’t wait to hang it up in your 2010 Vauxhall Astra. Life’s good.

But there’s just one catch. As a new driver, you’re subject to the licence probation period. And if you fail this probation period, the consequences can be pretty hefty. But what’s it all about? And how do you stay on the right side of the law? Read on to find out. 

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

What is a licence probation period?

The probationary period is essentially a two-year window where you’re subject to stricter rules and regulations than more experienced drivers. The period starts immediately after you pass your driving test, so you’re on the hook right away.

To pass your probationary period successfully, you need to avoid earning yourself any penalty points. Penalty points, or endorsements, go on your licence if you’ve been convicted of a motoring offence, and they stay on there for either 4 or 11 years. Check out this article if you want to find out more about penalty points.

There’s been a “worrying” number of newly qualified drivers who’ve lost their licence during their probationary period lately. In fact, nearly 8,000 people lost their licence within two years of getting it in 2020, a rise from 5,500 in 2018. The most common offenses were speeding and driving without insurance.

It means you have to be extra careful while you’re on the road for the two years after you’ve passed your test. But just think of it as a chance to perfect your driving skills and become the ultimate road ninja. Vroom vroom. As long as you stay within the speed limit. 

How does it affect new drivers in the UK? 

All new drivers have to undergo the probationary period. This means that for the next two years, you’ll be held to a higher standard than your more experienced driving peers. They risk getting disqualified from driving if they “earn” 12 penalty points.

But, if you earn 6 penalty points as a new driver on probation, you’ll have your driving licence revoked automatically.

Now, let’s talk about penalty points. They’re super easy to rack up. Let’s say you’re caught speeding, for instance. That could easily result in a £100 fine and 3 points on your licence. Yup, just like that you’ve already earned yourself 3 out of the 6 points you’re allowed before your licence disappears in a puff of smoke like Houdini.

So as a new driver, the probation period can have a pretty significant impact on your life. As in, you could lose everything you’ve worked so hard to gain in minutes if you’re not careful. 

What happens if you get 6 points in the first 2 years? 

If you happen to rack up 6 points in the first two years after getting your licence, you’ll have it automatically revoked. But what happens next?

You could appeal the number of points you’ve been “awarded” via the courts if you think you’ve been given a harsh sentence. But typically, you’ll need to have a pretty good reason for doing so, and you’ll usually need to get solicitors involved.

But if you’re stuck with the six points and your licence is revoked as a result, then you’re in for some pretty serious consequences.

As in, you’ll need to reapply for a provisional licence, sit both the theory and practical driving tests again, get your full driving licence again and then go through the whole probation period thing again.

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

What happens if you get a speeding fine in your first year of driving?

If you get caught speeding, the minimum penalty you’re likely to get is a £100 fine and 3 penalty points on your licence. Remember, all it takes is 6 penalty points to lose your licence altogether in those precarious first two years. There’s more details on how that works here.

So, what can you do to avoid losing your driving privileges if you’ve been caught speeding? One option is to attend a speed awareness course (if you’re given the chance). Not only will you avoid those 3 penalty points, but you’ll also learn some valuable tips on how to stay safe on the road. It’s a win-win situation.So, if you’re given the option to attend a speed awareness course, do it! It’ll save plenty of headaches down the road.

If you’re not given that option, you’ll just have to be extra careful from now on so you don’t get caught speeding again. Nobody wants to lose their licence, do they? 


How does the licence probation period affect your car insurance?

Many insurers consider young and inexperienced drivers to be higher risk, which means that your premiums are likely to be higher than someone who’s been driving for years. This isn’t necessarily because you’re “on probation”, but it is because you’re newly qualified. The two go hand-in-hand.

During the probation period, you’ll need to make sure you avoid getting any points on your licence so you can actually keep the thing. But If you do, your premiums could increase, and you might even find it hard to get insurance from some providers.

The “moral” of the story is: don’t get penalty points. They’re not worth losing your licence over during your probation period, and they’re certainly not worth the hike in insurance premiums which are likely to be high in your early driving years anyway.