23 March 2023
By Elaine Murphy
Jacqueline Popova, Information Officer at Fermoy CIC discusses the current system of using penalty points to enforce the rules of the road and improve road safety. If you commit a motoring offence, and the penalty for the offence includes penalty points, your driving licence will be endorsed with one or more penalty points. Some traffic offences have other penalties, such as fines, as well as penalty points.
Jacqueline confirms “The law governing penalty points is the Road Traffic Act 2002. This piece of legislation has been amended a number of times with additional offences added for which penalty points can be issued.”
“You won’t physically see the points on your licence” warns Jacqueline. “While penalty points are endorsed on your driving licence, the points do not physically appear on the licence. Your penalty points are recorded on your driving licence record, which is held on the National Vehicle and Driver File operated by the Department of Transport. Penalty point endorsements remain on your licence record for 3 years and must be notified to your insurance company when applying for motor insurance.
Endorsements on your licence record will often lead to an increase in your motor insurance premium.
Motor insurance companies have access to the National Vehicle and Driver File.”
How do penalty points work?
Penalty points are recorded on your driving licence when:
- You are convicted in court of a driving offence that attracts penalty points, or
- You pay a fixed charge notice that was issued to you for an offence that also carries penalty points
“Beware, if you get 12 penalty points in any 3 year period you are automatically disqualified from driving for 6 months.” says Jacqueline.
Learner permit drivers are disqualified if they have 7 penalty points. This lower threshold also applies for the first 2 years of a driver’s first full driving licence.
Fixed charge and penalty offences
Fixed notice penalties are issued for driving offences that attracts penalty points and/or just a fine.
If you receive a fixed notice penalty, you will be issued with a notice by the Department of Transport. If you pay the fixed charge fine within 56 days, you will get a further notice from the Department of Transport confirming that the penalty points will be added to your driving licence. The penalty points will be added to your licence 28 days after that.
If you do not pay the fixed charge fine within 56 days, you will get a summons to appear in the District Court. If you are convicted of a driving offence in court, the court will notify the Department of Transport of the number of penalty points attached to that conviction. The Department of Transport will then issue a notification that these penalty points will be added to your driving licence 28 days after the notification date.
How long do penalty points stay on my licence?
Penalty points remain on your licence record for 3 years. Any period where your licence is out of date, or you are serving a court disqualification, does not count as part of the 3 years. If you accumulate 12 points or 7 where applicable and are disqualified from driving for 6 months, the points which led to the disqualification are removed at the end of the 6 months.
But if you had more offences that had not been endorsed on your licence record by the time you started your 6 month suspension, these extra points would be added to your licence record and would remain on your licence for 3 years (from the time your licence was reinstated).
What happens to my licence if I have 12 penalty points or 7 where applicable?
If you have been notified by the Department of Transport that you have been disqualified from driving because you have reached 12 penalty points or more, you must surrender your driving licence to the National Driver Licence Service for the period of 6 months.
What motoring offences result in penalty points?
The Road Traffic Act 2002, as amended, legislates for the motoring offences that incur penalty points and the Road Safety Authority maintains an up-to-date list of penalty point motoring offences.
Jacqueline outlines some examples of how penalty points and fines are awarded:
Speeding offences: A fixed charge fine of €160, together with 3 penalty points. If you have been caught speeding on police traffic camera, you will get notice of your fine and penalty points of the offence by post. You have 28 days in which to pay your fine from the date the notice issues to you. If you don’t pay your fine, the fine then increases to €240 which you must pay within 28 days. If after this time (56 days) you still have not paid your fine, the offence is referred to the courts. Jacqueline confirms “If you are convicted in court of speeding offences and non-payment of fines, you will automatically receive 5 penalty points and a fine up to a maximum of €1,000.”
Seatbelt offences: If you drive without a seatbelt, or allow children under 17 years to travel in your car without a seatbelt, you will incur a fixed charge fine of €120. You must pay this fine within 28 days, or face an increased fine of €180 payable within 56 days of the offence. 3 penalty points will be added to your licence if you pay the fine on time. If you are convicted in court for non-wearing of a seatbelt, 5 penalty points will be added to your licence and you will be liable to a €2,000 fine for a first offence.
Motor insurance offences: If you drive without insurance you will get 5 penalty points and will have to appear in court. The court can issue a fine of up to €5,000, and can send you to prison for up to 6 months. The court can disqualify you from driving instead of issuing penalty points.
Careless driving: If you drive ‘a vehicle in a public place without due care and attention’ you can get up to 5 penalty points on your licence and a fine of up to €5,000. If the careless driving causes death or serious bodily harm, you are liable on conviction on indictment to imprisonment for a term of up to 2 years or to a fine of up to €10,000 or to both.
What happens if someone else was driving my vehicle?
If the driving offence was detected by camera, the notice is sent to the registered owner of the vehicle. If the registered owner was not driving at the time of the offence they should fill out the form attached to the notice, giving details of the person who was actually driving. This should then be returned to the Fixed Charge Processing Office with the original notice. Do not enclose payment. The Gardaí then issue a notice to the driver.
Do penalty points apply to all Irish driving licences?
Yes. Penalty points apply to both learner permits and full Irish driving licences. Penalty points also apply to drivers with foreign driving licences driving in Ireland. If someone is driving in Ireland on a foreign licence, a record will be created for penalty points. If the driver accumulates 12 penalty points in a 3-year period they are disqualified from driving in Ireland.
How do you find out how many penalty points you have on your driving licence?
To find out how many penalty points are on your driving licence record, contact the National Driver Licence Service (NDLS) at 0818 700 800 or email firstname.lastname@example.org, and quote your driving licence number.
Can penalty points be cancelled?
If you have been issued with penalty points (or a fixed charge without penalty points) you can apply to the Gardaí for the points to be cancelled. You will have to show that there are good procedural or exceptional grounds for cancellation.
Procedural grounds – examples of this include:
- A technical problem meant that wrong information was recorded (for example, the wrong speed limit was detected)
- You are exempt from the offence, for example, you have an exemption from wearing a seatbelt.
- You have been penalised for not having tax or insurance, but you can show that you had motor tax or insurance at the time of the alleged offence
- The car had been stolen and you have been sent a fixed charge notice and/or penalty points for offences committed after the theft of the vehicle
- You no longer owned the vehicle
Exceptional grounds – examples of this include
- You broke the speed limit because you were bringing someone to hospital
- You broke the speed limit because you were responding to an emergency in your home (for example, a fire or gas leak)
CIC telephone lines in Cork City are monitored from 10am to 4.30pm, Monday to Friday. In addition, the Cork City Centre CIC in Cornmarket Street is open to the public from 10am to 12.30pm, Tuesdays and Thursdays, while the Blackpool CIC is open to the public each morning from 10am to 1pm, Monday to Friday. Full details for all Citizens Information Centres and their opening times are available on their website.