Is 12 points an automatic driving ban? I’ve read a lot about drivers with more than 12 points keeping their licence.

12 points an automatic driving ban

It’s true that in the UK amassing 12 points on your driving licence should mean an automatic ban. But there are plenty of drivers who get 12 points and manage to carry on driving. We investigate how.

How do you get to 12 points?

The UK’s points system awards different points for various driving indiscretions. Speeding gets you three to six points, driving using a handheld mobile or driving without insurance mean six points. And driving without due care and attention is three to nine points.

If you amass – or tott up ‑ more than 12 points within three years, you lose your licence for six months. So 12 points should mean an automatic ban. Points stay on the licence for four to 11 years, depending on the severity of the offence.

How do you get 12 points and keep your licence?

Thousands of drivers keep their licence despite having more than 12 points. The theory is relatively simple. Most employ a legal professional. This will cost anywhere between £1,000 and £4,000, depending on where you are in the country and the solicitor.

You must then plead under oath to the magistrates’ court that losing your licence is going to cause you ‘exceptional hardship’. That might mean losing your job or your home.

It holds more sway if losing your licence has an impact on other people, perhaps family members who might also be made homeless, or employees who might lose their job because of it.

12 points an automatic driving ban
You won’t necessarily lose your licence if you exceed 12 points (Picture©RoadPilot)

Why exceptional hardship is a problem?

Courts expect that someone losing their licence will cause them hardship. That, after all, is the point of a punishment. But if a driver appeals that it will cause ‘exceptional’ hardship, the court must decide whether that really applies.

It follows these guidelines from the Sentencing Council for England and Wales: “The court must be satisfied that it is not merely inconvenience, or hardship, but exceptional hardship for which the court must have evidence. Almost every disqualification entails hardship for the person disqualified and their immediate family. This is part of the deterrent.”

Why 12 points and no driving ban causes a problem?

Critics claim that drivers being able to hold onto their licence makes a mockery of the law. Road safety charity IAM Roadsmart has been campaigning to abolish exceptional hardship pleas for a decade now.

Director of policy and research Neil Greig said: “We’ve seen a small improvement over the last 10 years but nowhere near enough. It’s very slow progress.

“The exceptional hardship plea needs to go. Some people think: ‘I’ll commit the crime, get a good lawyer and get off with a hardship plea.’”

But a solicitor we spoke to claimed that the law needs some sort of nuance. Otherwise, a truck driver watching TV in his cab while driving might get the same penalty as a car driver who touches his phone while stationary with the handbrake on.

Solicitor Dominic Smith from Patterson Law said: “Generally, people who run exceptional hardship pleas for totting up aren’t dangerous drivers in my experience.”

There might be outraged headlines at the number of people still driving with 12 points or more. But it’s a tricky dilemma to solve.

Share this post