Can I still drive with 12 points on my UK licence? Does 12 points always mean a driving ban?

image showing two ford police cars with blue lights flashing chasing another car

In the UK, 12 points on your driving licence should result in an automatic ban. But there are plenty of drivers who are still driving with 12 points and more on their licence. How do people keep driving legally with 12 points on their licence?

Is 12 points on my licence an automatic driving ban?

Thousands of drivers keep their licence despite having more than 12 points. Most employ a legal professional to avoid a driving ban with 12 points. 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 your ban.

Can I avoid a driving ban with 12 points?

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 exceptional hardship, the court must decide whether it applies.

They have the following 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.”

image over the shoulder of blonde woman driving a mazda car with a dash camera
You won’t necessarily lose your licence if you exceed 12 points

What is totting up penalty points?

Totting up is when you accumulate penalty points for different offences. Totting up bans most usually occur when a driver amasses 12 points over a period of time, perhaps for three or four different speeding offences.

The UK’s penalty system awards different points for various driving indiscretions. Speeding gets you three to six points depending on how fast you’re going; driving using a handheld mobile or driving without insurance mean six points. Driving without due care and attention is three to nine points.

How long do 12 points stay on your licence?

If you amass – or tott up ‑ more than 12 points within three years, you lose your licence for six months. The ban starts as soon as the court says so. Once the ban ends, all points are wiped from your licence.

Assuming you haven’t totted up 12 points and lost your licence, the points stay on the licence for four to 11 years, depending on the severity of the offence.

Do too many drivers avoid bans?

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.”

Share this post