In this fact page we will cover:
- How penalty points and driving bans are used
- The charges for causing death and injury on the road
- Hit and run and the law
Penalty points and driving bans
The penalty-points system is designed to protect the public from dangerous repeat offenders. People convicted of driving offences can have their driving record 'endorsed' with penalty points.
People who build up 12 or more penalty points within a period of 3 years can face being disqualified from driving.
There are different endorsements for different offences, each with a code and with a scale of penalty points from 1-11. The more serious offences receive more penalty points. Offence codes and penalty points stay on your driving record for between four and eleven years, depending on the offence.
New drivers and penalty points
There are different rules for new drivers, who will have their licence revoked if they get six more penalty points within two years of passing their test. If this happens, new drivers also have to apply and pay for a new provisional licence and pass both theory and practical parts of the driving or riding test again to get a full licence.
Any penalty points on a drivers' provisional licence that have not expired are carried over to their full licence when they pass their driving test.
Exceptional hardship and disqualification
Some drivers who accrue 12 points on their licence escape driving bans through claiming the loss of their licence would cause 'exceptional hardship'.
The period of a totting up disqualification may be reduced or avoided for exceptional hardship or other mitigating circumstances if the court thinks fit to do so. No account is to be taken of hardship that is not exceptional hardship or circumstances alleged to make the offence not serious.Sentencing Council
Brake and Direct Line survey of UK drivers, 2019
Death and injury charges
The Ministry of Justice decides the offences drivers can be charged with and their maximum penalties. The Crown Prosecution Service then decides which charge to prosecute a driver for in court. Judges then determine the length of sentence if the driver is convicted, working within maximum penalties and using guidelines from the Sentencing Council.
Driving offences in cases involving the death of another person include:
- Causing death by dangerous driving - Penalty: 1-14 years in prison, and disqualified for a minimum of two years.
- Causing death by careless driving when under the influence of drink
or drugs - Penalty: 1-14 years in prison, an unlimited fine, or both; and disqualified for a minimum of two years.
- Causing death by careless or inconsiderate driving - Penalty: Up to 5 years in prison, and disqualified for a minimum of one year.
- Causing death by driving: unlicensed, disqualified or uninsured drivers - Penalty: Up to 2 years in prison, an unlimited fine, or both; and disqualified for a minimum of one year.
Driving offences in cases involving the serious injury of another person include:
- Causing serious injury by driving dangerously - Penalty: Up to five years in prison (if heard in Crown Court), an unlimited fine, or both; and disqualified for a minimum of two years.
- Causing serious injury by driving when disqualified - Penalty: Up to four years in prison (if heard in Crown Court), an unlimited fine, or both; and disqualified for a minimum of two years.
A serious injury is defined as one that is in scope of grievous bodily harm under the Offences Against the Person Act 1861.
Careless or dangerous driving
When a driver causes a death or serious injury, they might be
prosecuted with an offence relating to either 'careless' or 'dangerous' driving.
The difference between 'careless' and 'dangerous' driving in the eyes
of the law is slight and subjective but the difference in penalties between
these charges is significant. The Crown Prosecution Service may opt for the less serious charge of 'careless' over 'dangerous', as a conviction for a 'careless' offence is more likely to succeed. However, this can result in punishments which can be seen as to lenient, especially in the eyes of victims and their families and friends.
The difference between careless and dangerous driving is essentially a question of degree compared to that of the careful and competent driver. If the driving falls below that standard it is likely to be careless driving and if the driving falls far below that standard it is likely to be considered as dangerous.Ministry of Justice
Hit and run
A hit and run, known in law as 'Failure to stop or report an accident', is a criminal offence in any case where injury or damage has been caused. The driver is required to stop at the scene and provide their name and address and that of the owner of the vehicle.
Failure to stop is categorised as a summary offence. These offences are usually heard in a magistrates court and carry relatively minor sentences - upon conviction a defendant can be sentenced to a penalty point endorsement of between 5-10 points or could be sent to prison for up to 26 weeks. The fine imposed by the Court could be up to £5,000. Summary offences can only be brought if the information is in front of the magistrates court within 6 months after the incident.