The Magazine and website Auto Car recently placed a new freedom of information act request to find out how many people with 12 points did not get the automatic ban that has always been presumed the norm. The results were very interesting and a little worrying too.
What Usually and Should Happen
The whole point of the penalty point system is to “mark” a driver in the eyes of the law and insurance companies etc when they have broken the law. These points stay on the licence for 3 years before they are taken off by the DVLA, this system has been in place for sometime and you would be forgiven for thinking you, like most drivers, understood it and respected it. The number of points given depends on the crime, from 3 points for minor speeding offenses to instant 6 points and more for bigger infractions. If the tally ever gets to 12 points then it is widely recognised as a ban, this ban normally involves a court appearance and a minimum of 6 months without your licence.
What is Really Happening
The information gathered from the FOI request showed that in July 2015 there were 19,848 drivers with 12 or more points on their licence, and out of these a massive 7078 people managed to avoid a driving ban in court. How is this happening? Well, the law states that a ban can be avoided if the person can convince the court that a driving ban would cause them “exceptional hardship”. This means the court can exercise discretion in these matters to avoid someone suffering greatly. Circumstances that would fall into this category would be someone who would be likely to lose their job and as a result lose their house, or someone who cared for a disabled or elderly relative and who needed transport. These circumstances are obviously not very nice, but they are probably few and far between, would they really account for over 7000 people in one month who also happened to be cereal law breakers on the roads?
In some cases people had considerably more than 12 points and were allowed to continue driving, some individuals had managed to rack up over 40 points. There were cases shown from a business owner that said 250 people might lose their jobs if he wasn’t able to drive as it would prevent him from doing his job; he owned 3 travel companies. Another person got caught speeding 3 times in 3 months, failed to respond to any of the summons but still avoided a ban with nearly 40 points because they said they would be unable to work, pay their debts and so fall into arrears. There are of course lots of cases where a lot of people would support the reasons behind not banning the driver, sometimes a run of bad luck could really see someone suffering but it is hard to justify all of the more extreme examples.
The reasons behind penalty points are clear and so are the rules of the road in most cases. We should all be trying to avoid driving badly and dangerously and as a result avoid getting any points. When you get 12 points there is a clear indication you are not driving very well or you are driving very badly indeed. Being able to then avoid the end result does seem to rather undermine the whole process but, as with all these kinds of stories there are some with good reason and some with no reason at all and it is the latter that make the headlines.