The penalty points system may not always be easy to understand, but it’s important to know how it works.

If you’re convicted of a motoring offence, you could have penalty points added to your driving licence, alongside a fine. 

Here’s a rundown of the penalty points system. 

What can I get points for?

Although you may associate points with speeding, this is not the only reason you might have points added to your licence, or ‘endorsed’, as it’s officially known.

The number of points added to a licence varies by offence. For example[1]

  • Failing to stop after an accident: 5 to 10 points
  • Driving a vehicle with defective brakes: 3 points
  • Exceeding the speed limit on a motorway: 3 to 6 points 
  • Driving or attempting to drive with an alcohol level above the limit: 3 to 11 points 

How long will the points stay on my licence?

How long points stay on your driving record depends on how serious the offence was.

In the examples above, those points would last for four years, with the exception of driving with an alcohol level above the limit. In that case the points would last for eleven years[1]

Once they expire, they’re removed automatically from your driving record.

Are points displayed on my licence? 

Points aren’t displayed on your licence card[2]. Instead, they’re kept in an online record. 

In the past, points were displayed on the paper part of a driving licence, but that’s no longer in use.

How do I find out if I have points on my driving licence?      

It’s fairly simple to see if you have points on your licence online and you can also find out when they’ll be removed.

Simply use this government tool. You’ll need your driving licence number, National Insurance number and the postcode on your driving licence to check this. 

If you believe the details displayed on the tool are wrong, then you can contact the court that convicted you to try and have them changed. 

Can someone else check whether I have points on my licence? 

Yes, but they need to know the last eight characters of your driving licence number and ask you for a code, which you can generate online.

What happens if I get points on my licence?

If you accumulate 12 or more penalty points within three years, then you’ll be disqualified from driving for at least six months, depending on whether you’ve been disqualified before[3].

If you’re a new driver, then your licence will be cancelled if you get six or more points within two years of passing your test[4]. To get back on the road with a new licence, you’d have to apply and pay for a new provisional licence and pass the theory and practical tests again.

Getting points on your licence can also make your insurance premiums more expensive, as insurers will see you as a higher risk driver who may be more likely to make an insurance claim[5] in the future.

How can I avoid points on my licence? 

Driving carefully and respecting the rules of the road is the first step to avoid committing a motoring offence.

But, in some cases, if you’re caught speeding, the police may give you the chance to attend a speed awareness course. 

If you attend one of these courses, you won’t get points on your licence or pay a fine[6]. You will have to pay for the speed awareness course, which typically costs around £80-£90[7]. Most importantly, you will get a refresher course on the dangers of speeding or dangerous driving, so you can get back behind the wheel consciously and safely.

To read more about driving and road safety go to Solved.