Penalty points explained: from how to check your licence to how many points you get for speeding

Answering the most commong licence questions, including how long points stay valid and when you need to tell your insurer

Millions of drivers in the UK have penalty points on their driving licences.

Whether it’s accidentally straying over the speed limit, driving without insurance or driving a car in a dangerous condition, an endorsement on your licence is a record of any motoring offences you have committed.

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Penalty points can have a significant impact on your driving, from more expensive insurance to the possibility of a ban, so it’s important to understand the rules around them.

To help drivers get their heads around the topic, Vanarama analysed Google search data to find and answer the six most commonly asked points-related questions.

1. How do you check the points on your licence? (118,800 searches every year)

Viewing your licence information has never been easier, as you can check on the government’s website.

All you need is your driving licence number, national insurance number and your postcode. You can then check your driving record, penalty points or create a licence ‘check code’ to share your driving record with someone, which you may need to do when hiring a car.

2. How long do points stay on your licence? (97,200 searches)

Some drivers require ‘fit-to-drive’ clearance from their doctor in order to renew their licence

Points stay on your driving record for four to 11 years, depending on the severity of the offence. However, your points will not adversely affect you for the whole penalty period. This is because your points are only ‘valid’ for a section of the full endorsement period. For example, a four-year endorsement is valid for three years.

When points are ‘valid’, they can be used in court and counted when tallying your total points, to see if your licence should be suspended or revoked. So, if you’re caught committing another offence in the final year of a pre-existing endorsement, the court won’t consider these older (invalid) points, when calculating your total. However, all points should still be taken seriously, as they can be seen by future employers and insurance companies.

3. How many points for speeding? (52,800 searches)

All speeding offences carry penalty points but depending on the severity of the crime, you will be placed into one of three bands:

  • Band A – three points 
  • Band B – Four to six points, seven to 28 days disqualified from driving
  • Band C – six points, seven to 56 days disqualified from driving

The banding works as follows:

4. Are there any speeding loopholes? (12,000 searches)

No, however, in England, Wales and Northern Ireland you might be given the option to attend a speed awareness course instead of taking the points. The scheme allows motorists who have committed minor offences to improve their behaviour. You will, however, only quality if:

  • You haven’t attended a speed awareness course in the last three years
  • You’ve been caught driving over 10 per cent + 2mph, but below 10 per cent + 9mph – e.g. in a 30mph road, this means between 35mph and 42mph.  

Speed awareness courses are not offered in Scotland.

5. Do you have to tell insurer about points straight away? (7,080 searches)

This differs depending on your insurance policy, which you will need to check. Whilst most insurers ask you to declare any points received while you’ve been covered by them at renewal time, some state in their terms that you must tell them as soon as you receive the conviction. Failing to do this is illegal.

6. Can you pay to remove points from your driving licence? (1,680 searches)

No, you can’t pay. You have to wait until the points expire (a minimum of four years), then the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency will automatically remove them.