How does the system work?
Penalty point offences are recorded on your driving licence if:
- You are convicted of a driving offence that attracts penalty points, or
- You are served with a fixed charge notice for an alleged offence that attracts penalty points and you opt to pay the fine rather than having the matter referred to the courts
Any driver accumulating 12 penalty points within any given three-year period will be automatically disqualified from driving for six months. The driver is required to surrender his/her licence to the appropriate licensing authority within 14 days of receiving notification of the disqualification. It is an offence not to surrender a licence. It is also an offence to drive while disqualified.
Penalty points remain on the licence for a period of three years.
While penalty points are endorsed on your driving licence, the points do not physically appear on the licence. Instead, your points are recorded on your driving licence record. These records are held on the National Vehicle and Driver file operated by the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport.
If you have committed a driving offence that incurs penalty points you will receive a written notification informing you that points are being added to your driving licence. This notice will include details of your name, address, date time and location of the driving offence concerned. It will also confirm that you either paid the fixed charge for the offence or were convicted in the court of such offence. The notice will also contain a date on which the notice was issued to you. This is the important date as the points will only be added to your licence 28 days after this date.
Penalty points for driving offences
The penalty points system for driving offences was introduced in 2002. In 2006, fixed charge fines for motorists guilty of driving offences were also introduced. The law governing penalty points is the Road Traffic Act 2002. A penalty point is essentially a formal reprimand by the Gardai endorsed on your driving licence that shows you are guilty of a specified driving offence.
The aim of penalty points is to influence and improve driver behaviour and address the unacceptable levels of death and serious injury on our roads. Penalty point systems also operate in other countries. International experience has demonstrated the penalty points system has proven successful in reducing the number of road deaths in those countries.
While penalty points are endorsed on your driving licence, the points do not physically appear on the licence. Instead, your penalty points are recorded on your driving licence record. Driving licence records are held on the National Vehicle and Driver File operated by the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport.
On 1 August 2014, there was an increase in the number of penalty points for some driving offences (pdf). Also the disqualification threshold was reduced from 12 to 7 penalty points for those who obtain their first learner permit on or after 1 August 2014 and subsequently during the first 2 years while they drive under their first driving licence.
On 8 December 2014, there were more changes introduced – 14 new penalty point offences, 9 offences had their existing level of points increased and 2 offences had procedural changes so that points can be applied without a court conviction.
How does the penalty points system work?
Penalty point offences are recorded on your driving licence licence if:
- You are convicted of a driving offence that attracts penalty points, or
- You are served with a fixed-fine notice in respect of an alleged offence that attracts penalty points and you opt to pay the fine rather than having the matter referred to the courts for determination.
No driver is allowed drive a vehicle while holding 12 current penalty points on their driving licence. Any driver that receives 12 penalty points in any 3 year period, is automatically faced with a 6-month disqualification from driving. The disqualification threshold is reduced to 7 penalty points for those who obtain their first learner permit on or after 1 August 2014 and subsequently during the first 2 years while they drive under their first driving licence.)
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 is created for the purpose of recording penalty points. Where the driver accumulates 12 penalty points in a 3-year period they are disqualified from driving in Ireland.
Penalty points obtained in other jurisdictions
A Convention of Driving Disqualification was adopted by EU Member States in 1998. Ireland’s Road Traffic Act 2002 provides a framework for implementing the Convention. Section 9 is designed to facilitate the entry into force of the framework for bilateral co-operation with other EU Member States in applying driving disqualifications for a number of serious road traffic offences committed in another Member State.
Mutual recognition of penalty points between the UK, Northern Ireland and the Isle of Man already exists. The North South Ministerial Council are examining the recognition of penalty points between Northern Ireland and Ireland.
When do the points take effect from – the date I committed the offence?
No. If you have committed a driving offence that incurs penalty points you receive a written notification from the Road Safety Authority (RSA) informing you of the fact that the appropriate number of penalty points are being added to your driving licence. This notice includes details of your name, address, date time and location of the driving offence concerned and confirmation of the fact that you either paid the fixed charge for the offence or were convicted in the court of such offence. The notice also contains a date on which the notice was issued to you. This is the important date as the points are only added to your licence 28 days after this date.
When someone has been issued with a fixed-charge notice by the Gardai for a driving offence that incurs penalty points and pays that fine within 56 days, the Gardai notify the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport (DTTAS) of that fact. The DTTAS then, on behalf of the RSA, issue to the person a notification of the fact that the appropriate number of penalty points are to be added to their driving licence 28 days after the issue of such notification. Similarly, if someone fails to pay the fixed-charge fine within 56 days the Gardai serve a summons on you to appear in the District Court to answer the alleged driving offence.
If you are subsequently convicted of the driving offence in court, the District Court notify the DTTAS of that conviction and of the number of penalty points attaching to that conviction. The DTTAS then, on behalf of the RSA, issue to you a notification of the fact that the appropriate number of penalty points are to be added to your driving licence 28 days after the date of the issue of such notification.
All penalty points added to your driving licence whether by way of payment of the fixed charge notice or by way of conviction in the courts are recorded on the National Driver File. This enables insurance companies to have access to penalty point information held on a driver record. Penalty points are not physically recorded on your licence. They are recorded on your driving licence record which is held on the National Vehicle and Driver File operated by the DTTAS.
Information on fixed-charge notices and fines is available in our document on driving offences.
How long do penalty points stay on your licence?
Penalty points have a three-year lifespan. That means they remain on your current driving licence for a period of 3 years from the start date (effective date). Any period where your licence is out of date won’t count as part of the 3 years. Where you accumulate 12 points and are disqualified for a period of six months, the points which led to the disqualification are removed at the end of the 6 months.
I received 2 penalty points for a driving offence in June 2010. My driving licence expired in September 2012 but I only renewed it in January 2013. If I had renewed my licence immediately, the points would have stayed on my licence until June 2013. However, the three months during which my licence was expired don’t count towards the three year of the penalty points. This means the penalty points remained on my licence until September 2013.
If you are disqualified from driving for a period of six months as a result of accumulating 12 or more points, the number of points standing endorsed on your licence on the date you are disqualified (i.e. 28 days after the date of issue of written notification from the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport) are removed from your licence at the end of the six months. This means that if you receive any additional penalty points during the six month disqualification period these points are then added to your driving licence when the disqualification is lifted and your driving licence returned.
If you have been notified by the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport that you have been disqualified from driving by virtue of the fact that you have accumulated 12 penalty points or more you are obliged to surrender your driving licence to the National Driver Licence Service for the period of six months.
What happens if someone else was driving my vehicle?
In cases where the driving offence was detected by camera, the fixed charge 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 complete the form attached to the notice, giving details of the person who was driving. This should then be returned to the relevant Garda Station with the original fixed charge notice. (Do not enclose payment). The Gardaí then issue a fixed charge notice to the driver.
Which motoring offences result in penalty points?
The Road Traffic Act 2002, as amended, legislates for the motoring offences that can incur penalty points. However, not all have been implemented. Since 8 December 2014, there are 62 driving offences that result in penalty points. View the list of penalty point motoring offences (pdf).
The following are some examples of how penalty points and fines are awarded.
- Speeding offences: A fixed charge fine of €80, together with 3 penalty points. If you have been caught speeding on police traffic camera, you will receive 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 to pay your fine. If you do not pay your fine, the fine then increases to €120 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. 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: Failure to wear a seatbelt or allow children under 17 years to travel in your vehicle without a seatbelt will incur a fixed charge fine of €60. You must pay this fine within 28 days, or face an increased fine of €90 payable within 56 days of the offence. 3 penalty points will be added to your licence if you opt not to go to court. 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. Read more about the regulations regarding the wearing of seatbelts in Ireland.
- Motor insurance offences: Generally punishable by a fine of up to €5,000, 5 penalty points and, at the discretion of the court, a term of imprisonment not exceeding six months. The court may decide that you be disqualified from driving instead of incurring penalty points. In that case,you will be disqualified for 2 years or more for a first offence and 4 years or more in the case of a second offence committed within 3 years of the first.
- Careless driving: This is defined as ‘driving a vehicle in a public place without due care and attention‘. The Gardai enforce careless driving offences and this involves a mandatory court appearance. A driver charged and subsequently found guilty of careless driving will receive 5 penalty points on their licence and may also be fined up to a maximum of €5,000. If the careless driving causes death or serious bodily harm, the driver is liable on conviction on indictment to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 2 years or to a fine not exceeding €10,000 or to both.
How do I find out how many penalty points I have on my driving licence?
To find out how many penalty points are on your driving licence record, contact the Road Safety Authority at 1890 41 61 41 and quote your driving licence number.