If you are found guilty of a motoring offence there are a number of punishments that police and the courts can hand down. These include a fine, licence endorsement, driving ban or even prison sentence, or a combination of them.
Licence endorsements are more commonly known as penalty points and are one of the most common forms of punishment. They are applied to your driving record and affect everything from your entitlement to drive to finding insurance and applying for jobs.
You can be given points via a fixed penalty notice, such as those issued by police at the roadside, or by the court if you are prosecuted.
What offences carry points?
Motoring offences fall into one of 15 types, with up to nine individual offences covered by one group.
Offences carry points on a scale from 2 to 11. Some have a set number of points - such as traffic sign offences, while others have a sliding scale depending on the severity of the offence, for example speeding. You cannot be given more than 11 points for a single offence.
The full list of offences and codes can be found here but the offence groups are:
Accident offences (AC) - eg failing to stop after an accident; 4-10 points Disqualified driver (BA) - 3-11 points Careless driving (CD) - eg driving without due care and attention; 3-9 points Construction and use (CU) - eg driving a vehicle with faulty brakes; 3-6 points Reckless/dangerous driving (DD) - including causing death by dangerous driving; 3-11 points Drink (DR) - 3-11 points Drugs (DG) 3-11 points Insurance (IN) - Using a vehicle uninsured against third party risks; 6-8 points Licence (LC) - eg driving vehicle classes not covered by your licence; 3-6 points Miscellaneous (MS) - eg failure to give information as to identity of driver; 2-11 points Motorway (MW) - Contravention of special roads regulations (excluding speed limits); 3 points Pedestrian crossings (PC) - eg running a red light; 3 points Speed limits (SP) 3-6 points Traffic direction and signs (TS) eg failing to obey a stop sign; 3 points Theft or unauthorised taking (UT), 3-11 points
You can also be given points for aiding, permitting or inciting any of these offences.
The codes and number of points are different in Northern Ireland but follow a largely similar pattern.
How many points can you get and still drive?
If you accrue 12 or more penalty points within a three-year period - known as “totting up” you can be banned from driving. However, this ban is not automatic and the courts can allow you to continue driving at their discretion. This carries a licence code of TT99.
The rules are different for new drivers. If you receive six or more penalty points in the first two years after passing your test your licence will be revoked and you will have to resit the driving test.
You can also be banned without receiving 12 points. Some offences, including drink driving and causing a death, carry mandatory bans while others such as driving without insurance and speeding come with the threat of a discretionary ban.
Depending on the length of the ban and the offence you commit you may have to resit the driving test or take an extended test before regaining your licence.
How long do points stay on your licence?
For most offences, points are valid for three years - ie count towards a totting-up ban - but must stay on your licence for four years. However, for some drink- and drug-driving offences, including those which involved a fatality, the endorsements are valid for 10 years and stay on your driving record for 11 years.
Points which are present on licence but no longer "valid" are visible to the courts when considering a sentence for any new motoring offence that a driver may have committed but they do not count toward totting up during that final year.
For most offences the endorsement starts from the date of the offence but for any offence of reckless/dangerous driving (DD40, DD60 or DD80) or that results in disqualification, the start date is the date of conviction.
How to check points on your licence
The DVLA offers a free service to check your licence status and share the results with other people (car hire firms, for example). You will need your driving licence number - printed on the front of your licence - your National Insurance number, and your home postcode.