I don’t know about you, but I always thought that 12 points on your driving licence meant an automatic disqualification under the ‘totting up’ rule. Apparently it doesn’t – 43% of drivers who get 12 points manage to talk their way out of a ban by pleading that they will suffer ‘excessive hardship’ if they lose their driving licences.
A new report published by road safety charity Brake and insurance company Direct Line has revealed that there are 10,072 drivers in the UK with more than 12 points on their driving licences. Amazingly, 37 of these drivers have 24 or more points – more than double the 12 point maximum.
The problem is that drivers and their lawyers are abusing the system by pleading that they will suffer excessive hardship if they lose their driving licences. This clause is obviously meant to protect people in extreme and unusual circumstances but has now become a mainstream solution – 43% of drivers who get 12 points on their licences and should be banned for at least six months are managing to avoid a ban in this way.
It seems that drivers can even plead ‘excessive hardship’ more than once – all that is required is for them to dream up a different set of reasons each time. Here are some of the most extreme examples:
- The UK record holder for the most points on a driving licence is a Bradford driver with 32 points. He/she has been caught driving uninsured four times, receiving 8 points each time.
- Stoke-on-Trent, Northampton, Nottingham, Blackburn Derby can each boast a driver with 30 points to their name. These drivers have been caught driving uninsured, speeding, failing to identify the driver, running red lights and using mobile phones while driving.
- Doncaster has two drivers with 27 points, while Wakefield, Chatham and Newcastle-upon-Tyne each have one. One of these drivers was caught speeding on the motorway eight times, as well as driving with defective tyres. Other offences committed by this motley crew include driving uninsured (that old favourite…), running red lights, driving without due care and attention and failing to identify the driver.
Driving without insurance seems to be a favourite offence amongst the 12 points+ club; perhaps they have discovered that there is no meaningful penalty for this offence. Fines for driving uninsured are often cheaper than insurance premiums and given how many drivers manage to avoid a ban, it is no wonder that some see no reason to pay record prices for car insurance.
Courts’ Discretion Must Be Removed
I honestly had no idea that it was so easy to escape a ban having reached 12 points. Most offences only carry 3-6 points and drivers are rarely awarded more than 8 or 9 points for one offence. This means that most drivers reaching 12 points have committed multiple offences and have no intention of mending their ways.
This suggests that many drivers already know how the system works and don’t fear a ban – because they know they can plead their way out of it. At present, drink-drive offences result in a mandatory ban but the courts have the discretion to allow a driver to avoid a ban under the ‘excessive hardship’ rule for other offences.
Brake is campaigning for this discretion to be removed and for automatic bans to be enforced for any driving breaching the 12-point limit. This is something I would wholeheartedly support – the present situation is making a mockery of the system by allowing repeat offenders to carry on driving – regardless of how many offences they commit.
To find out more about this and other road safety issues, visit www.brake.org.uk.