Penalty points were introduced to Ireland in 2002 to encourage safe driving and, naturally, to discourage unsafe driving. Speeding remains the most common reason for penalty points on Irish roads, but there are a wide range of other infractions that incur penalty points and fines. Use of mobile phones while driving, dangerous overtaking, unaccompanied learner drivers, not displaying an NCT disc and not wearing a seat belt are among a great many driving offences that can see the imposition of fines and the dreaded penalty points.
If you commit a motoring offence, or a traffic offence that warrants penalty points, your driving licence will be endorsed with one or more penalty points, depending on the infraction. The penalty point offences are recorded on your driving licence record, following your being served with a fixed notice fine for a road traffic offence or if after a conviction for a driving offence that attracts penalty points. Penalty points are not applied immediately, and you will be informed in writing of when they go on the system. This is usually about 28 days after you pay a fixed charge fine for the offence. If you don’t pay a fixed charge fine, you will be summoned to court and if convicted of the offence in court, the Department of Transport will write to you informing you of how many points will be applied within the next 28 days.
If you get 12 penalty points in any 3-year period, you are automatically disqualified from driving for 6 months.
Learner drivers are disqualified if they have 7 penalty points, and this lower threshold also applies for the first 2 years of a driver’s first full driving licence.
Penalty points are not recorded on the drivers licence itself but are recorded on your driver licence record which is kept at the National Vehicle and Driver File (NVDF). This is also where you go, if you want to check whether you have penalty points allocated. Fill in in this form, including your licence number and the information will be provided.
3 years! The penalty points stay on your licence for three years. That really is a deterrent against committing motoring offences. If you are disqualified or if your licence expires during those three years, the time out does not count as part of the three years. However, if you are disqualified, with either the 12 points for a full licence, or 7 points for a learner permit, the points that led to the disqualification are taken off after 6 months. If you managed to get more penalty points before you started your 6-month suspension, these extra points are added to your licence record and would remain on your licence for 3 years after it is reinstated to you.
Well, you can nearly guess the answer to that one. Probably yes, but this depends entirely on the insurance companies and on the current market. Generally speaking, most insurance providers won't penalise you with a premium hike if you have less than 4 penalty points. If you have more than 4 or 5 penalty points, insurance companies will charge more, and some may not even issue a quote.
Penalty points apply to both learner permits and full Irish driving licences, but they also apply to drivers with foreign driving licences driving in Ireland. When a driver holding a foreign licence occurs penalty points, a record will be created at NVDF to ensure that the points are noted. Just as with the Irish motorist, if this driver gets 12 penalty points in a 3-year period, they are disqualified from driving in Ireland.
Currently penalty points from other countries are not noted on your driver’s licence record. The UK and Ireland have an agreement where each country recognises a disqualification in either country, but not penalty points.
A driver can apply to the Gardai to have points cancelled, if they feel they were unfairly applied, but you really need to show that there is good reason. These reasons come under one of two headings, either procedural or exceptional grounds. Exceptional grounds would include breaking the speed limit due to a medical or other emergency, while procedural might be due to having a seat belt exemption, or if you did not own the vehicle when the offence took place. Apply to the gardai here if you want to appeal points and remember you are likely to be asked for supporting documents.
An anomaly with the penalty system has been highlighted recently in the news. Currently motorists who have committed multiple offences in one incident, only receive penalty points for the most serious offence. Politicians and road safety groups have spoken out against this situation, which allows a drunk driver to receive points and a fine for the charge of driving while intoxicated but does not address the penalty point issue of not having a licence, a roadworthy car or insurance. This situation is likely to be changed by government shortly. It will increase the likelihood of drivers being disqualified as a number of breaches may warrant various penalty points. Four serious infractions could bring 12 points in one swoop. As it is now, the penalty point deterrent to commit motoring offences is not fully powered up.
In 2022, 193,706 motorists were found to have committed motoring and traffic offences that incurred penalty points. This year, with a startling rise in death and injury on Ireland’s roads, the Gardai are concentrating on detecting speeding, so we may yet see a rise in convictions and penalty points. For most of us, driving safely for our sake, the sake of our families and everyone else on the roads, is a priority in itself. For others, there needs to be consequences for bad behaviour before they slow down, buckle up and play by the rules. Penalty points have been successful in curbing the worst of thoughtless or reckless driving. Stay safe and drive well.