Most drivers are proud to share that they have a clean driving licence. But new figures from the DVLA reveal that 10,000 motorists have accumulated 12 points or more – and are still driving on UK roads.
The figures were revealed by BBC South East. They represent an increase of 1400 drivers, or 16 percent, over the last set of DVLA data released in 2016.
And of greater concern, it’s a whopping 45 per cent rise (3113) compared with 2015.
David Nichols, of road safety charity Brake, said: “The penalty points system is supposed to be in place to protect the public from dangerous repeat offenders and it’s appalling that these risky repeat offenders are allowed to keep driving.”
Yorkshire driver has 62 penalty points
Grabbing the headlines was the case of a Yorkshire man who has clocked up 62 penalty points for speeding offences on motorways. But he’s still allowed to drive.
Normally, when someone is hit with 12 or more points on their driving licence within three years, they must attend court. They then face a minimum six month ban from the roads.
The example highlights how magistrates can show leniency when sentencing drivers if they believe the individual would suffer ‘exceptional hardship’ and potentially lose their job and be unable to meet mortgage or rent payments or feed their family.
Sheena Jowett is deputy chairman of the Magistrates’ Association, the independent charity representing magistrates in England and Wales. She defended the process used when judging drivers brought to court: “Magistrates take decisions under clear guidelines, impartially, and on the merits of each individual case.
“Automatic disqualification can be avoided or reduced in cases of ‘exceptional hardship’. The process is a robust one and the concept of hardship must be proved to an exceptional level.”
More drivers are ‘totting up’ points
In total, there were 203 drivers with more than 18 points on their licence still driving, as of last month. In Greater London, 1,385 people had more than 12 points.
Lawyers say the phenomenon of clocking up huge numbers of penalty points is growing.
Nick Freeman is a lawyer best known as Mr Loophole. He has defended celebrities including Jeremy Clarkson, Wayne Rooney and Jimmy Carr against driving convictions.
He says cases of drivers ‘totting up’ more than 12 points are not uncommon. For his clients, he attempts to have all the court summons set to one date. He told the BBC: “So the court hears just one argument of exceptional hardship.”
Freeman said the hardship guidelines help drivers tot up points and still keep their licence. “If Parliament doesn’t want that situation to continue, the legislation needs changing,” he said.
Research conducted in 2016 by esure, the car insurer, found more than 1.5 million people admitted to taking penalty points on someone else’s behalf. The excuse of not being able to remember who was driving when the offence was committed was used by 360,000.
James is a motoring journalist and former magazine editor at BBC Top Gear and Auto Express. He has scooped, reported on and reviewed most new cars of the past 20 years, and currently contributes to the Driving section of The Sunday Times.