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Driving Penalty Points: What You Need to Know About Accumulation and Removal

Driving penalty points can lead to fines, licence endorsements, and accumulating 12 or more points in a short time frame can result in a ‘totting up’ disqualification. In very serious cases, driving penalty points can be accompanied by a community order or a prison sentence.

Driving points can be removed by waiting for them to naturally expire, which typically occurs after a duration of three years from the date of the offence. Alternatively, you can seek legal options such as making an application for “exceptional hardship” or presenting “special reasons” to the court, which can potentially reduce or avoid the impact of the penalty points on your licence.

Key Points about accumulation and removal of penalty points

  • Committing a motoring offence can result in penalty points on your driving licence, which can lead to fines, licence endorsements, or even disqualification from driving.
  • Accumulating a certain number of points within a specific time period can result in disqualification.
  • It’s important to be aware of the duration that penalty points remain on your licence, typically three years from the date of the offence.
  • Driving points can be removed by waiting for them to naturally expire, which typically occurs after a duration of three years from the date of the offence.
  • Making an application for “exceptional hardship” or presenting “special reasons” to the court can potentially reduce or avoid the impact of the penalty points on your licence.
  • Consulting with a specialized legal professional can provide valuable guidance in navigating these processes.

Caddick Davies Can Help

If you are facing penality points, a totting up ban, need to appeal points or present exceptional hardship or special reasons to the Court, the team at Caddick Davies Solicitors can help.

We are a motoring law specialist firm and our solicitors give honest advice and guidance to help you to secure the most successful outcome possible when facing driving penalty points.

Call our expert team today: 0151 944 4967

The Duration of Points on Your Licence

The Duration of Points on Your Licence

How Long Do Penalty Points Remain On Your Licence?

Penalty points will remain active on your driving licence for 3 years from the date an offence was committed. For example, if a speeding offence is committed on the 1st January 2023 and 3 penalty points are endorsed on your licence for the offence, the points will not expire until the 1st January 2026.

Points do not run from the date of acceptance of a Conditional Offer of Fixed Penalty nor from the date of the Court awarding penalty points at a hearing. Therefore, if you go to a hearing on the 1st March 2023 for an offence that took place on the 1st January 2023, the full endorsement and penalty points will not run from the 1st March 2023 and will still expire on the 1st January 2026.

Visibility of Penalty Points

Whilst penalty points remain active on your driving licence for 3 years, they will remain visible for 1 year longer but they are not to be taken into consideration for the purpose of accumulation once they expire.

Checking Penalty Points

If you are unsure as to whether you have any endorsements on your driving record, then you can check how many points you have on your driving licence using the government website here.

Accumulating 12 Penalty Points – “Totting Up”

Accumulating 12 or more penalty points on your driving licence within a 3-year period will make you liable for a minimum 6-month disqualification from driving, pursuant to Section 35 of the Road Traffic Offenders Act 1988.

This is often referred to as “totting up.” Pursuant to Section 29 of the Road Traffic Offenders Act 1988, any points that have expired will not be taken into consideration, and only “active” penalty points are relevant.

Duration of Disqualification under “Totting Up”

The minimum period of disqualification under “totting up” is 6 months. The Court will generally impose the standard 6 months; however, where there are a large number of offences or aggravating features, they have the power to impose a lengthier, disqualification period.

Further reading: Totting up ban – what you need to know

Increased Minimum Periods for Previous Disqualifications

If you have received a disqualification from driving for 56 days or more in the 3 years preceding the date of the current offence, then the minimum period is increased as below:

1. 1 previous disqualification – minimum period increased to 1 year.

2. 2+ previous disqualifications – minimum period increased to 2 years.

Avoiding a Disqualification – Exceptional Hardship

Avoiding a Disqualification - Exceptional Hardship

The Main Way to Avoid a ‘Totting Up’ Disqualification

The main way to avoid a ‘totting up’ disqualification is by making an application for “exceptional hardship” pursuant to Section 35 of the Road Traffic Offenders Act 1998. Such an application can be made whereby the driver and/or those around them would suffer real consequences as a result of a driving ban.

You would be required to plead your case in court, outlining the reasons that the lives of you or those around you would be impacted. The key is that the consequences must be “exceptional.”

Successful Application for “Exceptional Hardship”

If an application for “exceptional hardship” is successful, the Court has the power to reduce the period of disqualification or, most commonly, impose no disqualification at all.

Common examples of “exceptional hardship” include loss of job, impact on your employer or colleagues, inability to provide support or care to a vulnerable friend or family member, impact on physical health, and impact on mental health.

Court’s Consideration for Granting “Exceptional Hardship”

In order for the court to grant “exceptional hardship,” they will need to consider that the consequences of disqualification are “exceptional” and go beyond matters of inconvenience or difficulty. If the court believes that disqualification would result in difficulty or inconvenience, then a disqualification will be imposed.

You, therefore, need to ensure that you are prepared to explain why no other alternatives are available, such as why public transport would not be a suitable option. The court has discretionary power to grant or reject the application, depending on whether they feel your application crosses the threshold.

Consideration of Hardship to Others

The court should consider exceptional hardship to other people who rely upon you for your licence, such as family or friends. If there are similar or greater consequences upon them as a result of your disqualification, these are also grounds that can be used in your exceptional hardship application.

Thorough Preparation of Application

Courts are often skeptical of applications for exceptional hardship and will investigate any request not to disqualify. It is, therefore, important that any application is thoroughly prepared and presented, along with appropriate supporting evidence, such as supporting evidence/letters documenting how individuals would be impacted.

You should also be prepared to answer questions under oath to establish exceptional hardship, even if you have a legal representative.

Limitations on Applications and Mitigation

It is important to note that only one application for “exceptional hardship” can be made within a 3-year period, unless the application is run on new grounds. Furthermore, the court cannot take into consideration mitigation in connection with the offence – this would only be considered by way of a “special reasons” application.

Avoiding Penalty Points On Your Driving Licence – Special Reasons

Avoiding penalty points on licence

Avoiding Penalty Points

Before reaching the stage of “totting up,” it may be possible to avoid penalty points altogether. If you are guilty of an offence but there are mitigating circumstances which led to an offence taking place, the Court may be able to waive the endorsement of penalty points under an application for “special reasons” pursuant to Section 44 of the Road Traffic Act 1988.

Criteria for “Special Reasons”

According to R v Wickens [1958], a special reason must be:

  1. A mitigating or extenuating circumstance;
  2. Directly related to the commission of the offence;
  3. Not amount to a defence in law;
  4. Circumstances that ought to properly be considered when considering penalty.

Relevance of “Special Reasons” Applications

“Special reasons” applications are usually most relevant for cases of no insurance, speeding, and drink driving.

1. No Insurance

Driving without insurance is a strict liability offence. However, special reasons can be found if the individual had a genuine and honest belief that they were insured to drive the vehicle, and that belief is reasonable, according to the case of Rennison v Knowler [1947].

2. Speeding

Speeding is also a strict liability offence. However, the Court may waive penalty points under a “special reasons” application if you can establish with reasonable consideration that you were speeding as a result of an emergency, pursuant to the case of Whittal v Kirby [1946].

3. Drink Driving

For drink driving, penalty points cannot be awarded. However, an application for “special reasons” can be argued in cases where driving a short distance, or dangerous driving, due to an emergency, or spiked drinks are involved.

Accumulating 6 Points as a New Driver

Under the Road Traffic (New Drivers) Act 1995, all drivers are in a probationary period for 2 years from the date of passing their driving test.

If a driver receives 6 or more penalty points for offences committed within this period, then their licence will be automatically revoked, pursuant to Section 2(1)(c) of the Road Traffic (New Drivers) Act 1995. This applies to any offences committed within the first 2 years.

To get your licence back after revocation, you would need to reapply for a new provisional licence, and pass your practical and theory driving tests again.

Further reading: New driver motoring offences

Avoiding Revocation

To avoid the situation of having your licence revoked, you can go to court and either advance a successful application for “special reasons” or ask the Court for a short-term disqualification from driving.

According to Part 25 of the Magistrates’ Court Sentencing Guidelines, an offender liable for an endorsement that will cause their licence to be revoked under the new drivers’ provisions may ask the Court to disqualify instead of imposing points.

This will avoid revocation and the requirement to take a further test. However, the Court must be convinced that it is in the interests of justice to avoid revocation.

Penalty Points and Provisional Licence

Learner drivers are provisional licence holders, and you can receive penalty points (and even a disqualification from driving). Any penalty points put on your provisional licence that have not expired will be carried over to your full driving licence when you pass your test.

Accumulating 12 points as a provisional licence holder will still make you liable for a 6-month “totting up” disqualification. If you accumulate 6 penalty points as a provisional licence holder, your licence will not be revoked as there is no licence for the DVLA to revoke.

However, if you receive further penalty points within the first 2 years of having your driving licence (provided that the points have not expired) after passing your test, your licence will then be revoked.

What Is A Disqualification from Driving?

What Is A Disqualification from Driving

A disqualification from driving will prohibit the driver from driving on public roads until the specified limit of the disqualification is over. Should that driver be attempting to drive any car on a public road during the period of a disqualification, then they would be committing a more serious offence of ‘driving whilst disqualified’ which would result in the extension of the disqualification and in more serious cases, a community order or custodial (prison) sentence.

When Are Driver Disqualifications Imposed?

Driving disqualifications can be imposed for specific offences, where the nature of the offence is regarded as more serious or if there are aggravating features. However, disqualifications can also be imposed where a driver has accumulated too many points (12 or more) on their driving licence, even if the driving offences that have led to the accumulation are relatively minor in nature.

The accumulation of 6 penalty points on your licence, if you have been driving for less than 2 years, can result in your driving licence being revoked entirely, requiring further re-testing before the licence is reinstated.


In conclusion, understanding the accumulation and removal of driving penalty points is crucial for every driver. By being aware of the potential consequences of motoring offences, the duration of penalty points on your licence, and the available options to avoid or reduce penalties when facing licence endorsements, you can take proactive steps to maintain a clean driving record with the help of motor offence solicitors.

At Caddick Davies Solicitors, we have a team of specialist motor defence lawyers who specialize in representing motorists at risk of a disqualification or a large number of penalty points. We work with clients all over the UK and are rated in the top 20 law firms on TrustPilot. For efficient and effective legal advice for motoring offences, please get in touch to discuss your case with our friendly team today.

Motoring Lawyer at Caddick Davies Solicitors
Caddick Davies is recognised as one of England and Wales’ leading motoring law firms, offering specialist Speeding Solicitors, Drink Driving Solicitors & Dangerous Driving Solicitors.We provide advice and representation on all motoring offences including speeding, the avoidance of disqualification on penalty points or “totting up” (exceptional hardship), driving without due care and attention (careless driving), dangerous driving, drink driving, as well as a range of services related to medical revocation of a driving licence.
Neil Davies

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