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Driving offences and penalty points explained

By Martin Pratt

Driving offences go from trivial to severe, as do the punishments. Our guide details the offences that can lead to penalty points, fines and even jail.

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You can get penalty points on your licence, a hefty fine or even jail time for driving offences ranging from driving without a seatbelt to drunk driving. Whether it’s a speeding ticket through the letterbox or a court summons for something more serious, understanding the penalties for driving offences promotes safer driving.

The Road Traffic Offenders Act along with penalty points was introduced in 1988 to deter drivers from committing offences. Here’s our guide to some of the more serious and common offences, and the maximum penalties associated with them.

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Road Traffic Offenders act: maximum penalties

Offence (code) Prison term Fine Driving ban Penalty points
Causing death by dangerous driving (DD80) 10 years Unlimited Obligatory – minimum of 2 years (a) 3-11 (b)
Dangerous driving (DD40) 6 months Unlimited Obligatory (a) 3-11 (b)
Causing death by careless driving when unfit through drink or drugs (DR40/50) 10 years Unlimited Obligatory – minimum of 2 years (a) 3-11 (b)
Driving without due care and attention (CD10) n/a £2,500 Discretionary 3-9
Driving when above the alcohol limit or unfit through drink or drugs (DR10/20/80) 6 months £5,000 Obligatory (c) 3-11 (b)
Failing to stop after an accident or failing to report an accident (AC10-20) 6 months £5,000 Discretionary 5-10
Driving while disqualified (BA10) 6 months £5,000 Discretionary 6
Driving after revocation of license on medical grounds (LC50) 6 months £5,000 Discretionary 3-6
Driving without insurance (IN10) n/a £5,000 Discretionary 6-8
Using a vehicle with defective breaks/tyres/steering (CU10/30/40) n/a £2,500 (d) Discretionary (e) 3
Using a hand-held mobile phone while driving (CU80) n/a £1,000 (f) Discretionary 6
Failure to have proper control of the vehicle or full view of the road ahead n/a £1,000 (f) Discretionary 3
Driving otherwise than in accordance with a license (LC20) n/a £1,000 Discretionary 3-6
Speeding (SP) n/a £1,000 (g) Discretionary 3-6 (h)
Traffic signal offences (TS) n/a £1,000 Discretionary 3
No MOT certificate n/a £1,000 n/a n/a
Seat belt offences n/a £500 (i) n/a n/a
Failing to identify the driver of your vehicle (MS90) n/a £1,000 n/a n/a
Table notes
(a) Compulsory re-test
(b) If an exceptional circumstance, a disqualification is not applied
(c) Discretionary re-test
(d) £5,000 if driving a light-goods vehicle or passenger-carrying vehicle
(e) Obligatory if committed within three years of conviction for the same offence (in which case six months minimum disqualification)
(f) £2,500 if driving a goods vehicle or passenger-carrying vehicle
(g) £2,500 for motorway offences
(h) Three points if fixed penalty notice is issued and accepted
(i) £250 if a child in the back seat isn't wearing a seatbelt

Understanding penalty points

Penalty points remain on your licence for three years from the date of conviction – though you can’t have them removed until their fourth anniversary.

The points are cumulative. You will be disqualified if you receive 12 in a three-year period.

New drivers will be banned if they receive six points within two years of passing their test.

Fixed penalty notices

Police officers may issue you with a fixed penalty notice for an endorsable offence, such as excessive speeding or dangerous driving. This can be on-the-spot if you have your driving licence and counterpart with you. If you have nine points or more on your licence, an on-the-spot endorsement is not possible. An endorsable offence can result in a fine and penalty points on your licence. You will be required to hand over your licence at the scene or within seven days of the notice being issued.

You can be given a provisional fixed penalty, together with a notice to produce your licence within seven days. You must then attend a police station with your licence and the penalty ticket, where it's turned into a full fixed penalty.

The points are cumulative. You will be disqualified if you receive 12 in a three-year period.

Your driving licence will be returned to you if the fine is paid within seven days. If you disagree with the fine, you can request a hearing and the case will be tried in court. If you’re found guilty, a judge will decide how many points should go on your licence and how much the fine will be.

If you don’t pay or request a court hearing within the time stated, the charge will increase by a half. You then have a further 21 days to pay or show that you requested a court hearing.

Speed awareness course

For speeding offences, you may be offered the chance to attend a speed awareness course. These courses are usually offered to drivers who were only slightly over the legal limit. You cannot attend more than one course every three years. If you are caught again in that time, penalty points will be added to your licence. The courses typically last four to five hours and are paid for by the offender.

Learn your rights about speeding - see speeding tickets explained.

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