1. Instant Driving Ban

Several driving offences are known to carry an instant ban. However, where a driving offence does not carry a mandatory disqualification, the circumstances of the offence – including the implications and past records – may result in a ban.

Driving offences that result in an instant ban on conviction (mandatory disqualification) :

  • Dangerous driving
  • Death by dangerous driving
  • Death by careless driving
  • Driving with excess alcohol
  • Driving with excess drugs
  • Driving whilst unfit through drink/drugs
  • Failure to provide a specimen (having driven vehicle prior to arrest)

Driving offences that carry a discretionary ban:

  • Driving without insurance
  • Failing to stop for police
  • Failure to stop following accident
  • Careless driving (driving without due care and attention)
  • Driving whilst disqualified
  • Drunk in charge of a vehicle
  • Failure to provide a specimen (having been in charge of a vehicle)

Totting Up – Subject to certain exceptions, a disqualification of at least 6 months will be imposed where the number of points accrued for offences committed within the same three year period is 12 or more.

Driving bans imposed in English and Welsh Courts  also apply in Scotland Northern Ireland and The Isle of Man. This is known as a Mutual Recognition of Disqualification.

A discretionary disqualification can technically be imposed for any speeding offence but in practice it will only normally be where the speed is significantly above the speed limit. Below is a copy of the Magistrates’ Court sentencing guidelines for speeding offences:-

Speed limit (mph)Recorded speed (mph)
2041 and above31 – 4021 – 30
3051 and above41 – 5031 – 40
4066 and above56 – 6541 – 55
5076 and above66 – 7551 – 65
6091 and above81 – 9061 – 80
70101 and above91 – 10071 – 90
Sentencing rangeBand C fineBand B fineBand A fine
Points/disqualificationDisqualify 7 – 56 days OR 6 pointsDisqualify 7 – 28

days OR  4 – 6 points

3 points

As can be seen from the sentencing guidelines, a disqualification is not normally considered for offences which fall within the first bracket (eg. below 41mph in a 30mph limit or 91mph in a 70mph limit).

In cases that fall within the top bracket of the guidelines (eg. over 50mph in a 30mph limit or over 100mph in a 70mph limit) Magistrates’ Courts will consider imposing a discretionary disqualification however they may still decide that points would be more appropriate.  Penalty points are often considered to more or a long-term deterrent against future offences due to the prospect of a totting up ban of 6 months being imposed in the future.

The obvious advantage of a discretionary disqualification is that there are no penalty points meaning that once it is finished a motorist will be no closer to a longer totting up ban than they were before they were sentenced.

The court may choose to enforce a driving ban in response to either a singular offence or as a result of totting up (i.e. endorsement points reach or exceed 12 points). The terms of the ban will reflect any historical offences as well as the seriousness of the most recent driving offence.

Length of BanOffence/Circumstances
6 months12 or more penalty points within a 3 year period
1 yearSecond disqualification within a 3 year period
2 yearsThird disqualification within a 3 year period

2. Avoiding a Ban

Where a driver reaches 12 points, the relevant legislation provides that the Court may decide not to disqualify or disqualify for a period of less than 6 months where there are there are “grounds for mitigating the normal consequences of the conviction” – s35 (1) Road Traffic Offenders Act 1988. When deciding whether such grounds exist the Court is not allowed to take in account circumstances which it is alleged make the offence less serious and can only take into account hardship where it is considered to be exceptional – s35 (4) Road Traffic Offenders Act 1988. The Court may not take into account circumstances which have already been used to avoid or reduce a totting up ban in the three years preceding the date of conviction for the offence that has resulted in totting up.

Please note that exceptional hardship only applies to offences which carry penalty points and not to offences that carry mandatory disqualification such as drink driving or dangerous driving.

Due to the wide range of situations that arise there is no definition in law as to what may or may not amount to exceptional hardship. Below are some common examples:-

  • Business Owner – Where the continued employment of staff members would be placed under immediate threat in the event of imposing a driving ban on the business owner.
  • Employee – Where the nature of a person’s job requires them to drive and the effect of a disqualification would lead to dismissal and hardship being caused to the company and/or dependents.
  • Voluntary Work – Where a Defendant plays a role in charitable organisations that cannot be completed without the use of a licence or is involved in sports clubs outside of work that require the use of a car.
  • Key role (linked to safety of others) – Where the defendant is able to demonstrate that a driving ban would significantly affect current employment prospects in a role that is key to the health or safety of others eg. doctor, nurse, fireman and policeman.
  • Caring for Elderly and Infirm Relatives – Where the Defendant has a key role in caring for dependents which cannot be carried out without a driving licence.
  • Mobility (Quality of Life) – The court may consider an appeal for exceptional hardship under health reasons where diminished capacity or a physical disability renders public transport impractical and would lead to lose of employment.

The defendant may enter a plea of mitigation on grounds of special reasons where he or she feels that hitherto overlooked circumstances may help to reframe the case in favour of a reduced penalty. A plea of mitigation is entered after the defendant has accepted the charges but has not yet been sentenced. For example, where a driver has sufficient reason to believe that he or she was lawfully insured to drive a vehicle but in fact was not insured, a case for special reasons may be put forward for the consideration of the court.

Where a defendant feels strongly that he or she has been wrongly convicted, or that the penalties imposed by the court are excessive, an appeal may be lodged with the Crown Court. A Crown Court Judge will then rehear the case and decide whether the conviction should be allowed to stand or in the case of an appeal against sentence, whether the penalty imposed should be changed.

3. Return to Driving

If convicted of dangerous driving or causing death by dangerous driving, an extended re-test will normally be ordered to be taken before the driving licence is restored.

Depending on factors such as the severity of the driving offence and the likelihood of reoffending, The court may also rule that a disqualified driver must sit an extended driving test. The practical element of an extended driving test lasts around one hour and incurs greater fees.

Where a driving ban is imposed as a result of totting up (i.e. where a cumulation of endorsement points for separate driving offences exceeds 12 points), the total number of endorsement points will be reset to zero after the ban has been served in full.

Where an instant driving ban is imposed as a result of a singular severe offence, a record of the disqualification will remain on the licence. In the case of a conviction for offences which carry mandatory disqualification (eg. drink driving/ drug driving ) the disqualification will remain visible on the licence for 11 years and will be factor in determining the offence for similar future convictions for 10 years.  In the case of offences which carry a discretionary ban it will remain on the licence for the same period as would points, 3 years for totting up purposes and will no longer be visible on the driver record for 4 years. However, most insurance companies insist that they must be disclosed for 5 years from the date of conviction when deciding whether to offer a policy and the premium to be paid.

Where a driving ban is imposed by the courts, the convicted motorist must surrender his or her licence to the DVLA. Depending on the duration of the ban, the licence may be returned or may be cancelled:

  • Fewer than 56 days – Where the duration of a driving ban does not exceed 56 days, the DVLA will return the licence to the motorist upon completion of the ban. The motorist is not required to undertake any further action regarding his or her licence (i.e. the motorist is not required to retake the driving test).
  • More than 56 days – Where the duration of a driving ban exceeds 56 days, the DVLA will revoke the convicted motorist’s licence. Upon completion of the driving ban, the motorist must reapply for a new licence.

If a motorist accrues 6 or more points within the first two years of passing their test, known as the probationary period, their licence will be revoked under the Road Traffic (New Drivers Act) 1995.  This recocation is not imposed by the Court but by the DVLA after it records the points imposed on the licence. Where a licence has been revoked under these circumstances, a new licence must be applied for and the driving test re-taken.

Perversely, offences which are committed before the start of the probationary period but in relation to which the sentence is imposed after the test has been passed may still result in a licence being revoked. Therefore if you are yet to take your test and are due to be charged with offences for which points could be imposed, it may be advisable to delay taking your test to avoid having to do a new one after the points have been endorsed on your licence.

A common scenario which arises is where a driver accepts a fixed penalty of 3 or 6 points for an offence without realising that it will result in the revocation of their licence. By this time, it is unfortunately too late for the revocation to be reversed as there is no right of appeal against the acceptance of a fixed penalty and no right of appeal against the revocation itself.  However, if no fixed penalty is accepted then it may be possible to avoid conviction for the offence or to persuade the Court to impose a discretionary disqualification instead of points. Under these circumstances, a discretionary disqualification may be advantageous as avoids the need to reapply for a new licence and take another driving test.