Charity calls for reform to get law-breaking drivers off our roads - 10,000 drivers with 12 points are still driving

19 October 2011

Brake, the road safety charity
T: 01484 559909 E: news@brake.org.uk

A charity is demanding tougher treatment for drivers who endanger lives by repeatedly breaking the law. Research out today by Brake and Direct Line reveals a huge proportion of out-of-control drivers across Britain who clock up 12 points are not being disqualified. This is despite breaking vital safety laws, such as driving uninsured, using a phone at the wheel and speeding; making our roads dangerous for the law-abiding public.

Brake and Direct Line analysed data provided by the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) [1] and found that 10,072 drivers whose risky driving totted up 12 points or more have kept their licence and are still driving, while 13,449 drivers [2] with 12 points or more are currently disqualified. London and the South East, Yorkshire and Humberside, and the North West, each have more than 1,000 of these potentially deadly drivers still on public roads. See below for a table with data for each region.

Analysis of the worst drivers, with 25 points or more, shows that 13 have committed uninsured driving offences, while 13 have been given points for speeding or failing to identify the driver of the vehicle. Other offences include driving without due care and attention, mobile phone offences and defective vehicles.

Although drivers can expect a ban of at least six months when they reach 12 points, many are successfully pleading that being disqualified would cause 'exceptional hardship'. This untenable situation means a huge number of the riskiest drivers continue to plague our roads, able to cause crashes that could kill and maim, resulting in devastation to families and a significant burden on health and emergency services [3].

Brake and Direct Line can also reveal from the data the worst drivers still on the roads in Great Britain [4], the number of points they have, offences they have committed and which area they come from:

  • A driver in Bradford has totted up 32 points on their licence, the most in Great Britain. This is after being caught driving uninsured four times, receiving eight points for each offence.
  • In Manchester a driver was caught driving uninsured five times and has kept their licence. They received six points for four of these offences, and seven points for the fifth.
  • There are five drivers in Great Britain with 30 points on their licence. They are from Stoke-on-Trent, Northampton, Nottingham, Blackburn and Derby. These drivers have received points for driving uninsured, speeding, failing to give the identity of the driver, red light running and mobile phone offences. One of these drivers was caught speeding seven times, as well as driving uninsured and running a red light.
  • A driver in Leeds has totted up 28 points on their licence without being disqualified. They were caught driving uninsured two times, at eight points each time, and caught driving 'otherwise than in accordance with a licence' four times, at three points each time.
  • Five drivers have 27 points on their licence. Two are from Doncaster, with the others are based in Wakefield, Chatham and Newcastle-upon-Tyne. They received points for driving uninsured, speeding, failing to identify the driver, driving without due care and attention, mobile phones offences, red light running, parking on double yellow lines. One of these drivers was caught speeding on a motorway eight times, as well as driving with defective tyres.
  • Three drivers have 26 points on their licence. They are from Carlisle, Edinburgh and Motherwell. They received points for driving uninsured, speeding, mobile phone offences, driving without due care and attention and defective tyres.
  • Three drivers have 25 points on their licence. They are from Enfield, Preston and Wakefield. They received points from driving uninsured, speeding and failing to give the identity of the driver.

Julie Townsend, Brake campaigns director, said: "We are asking the government to act quickly to address this appalling situation. Clearly when the points system was designed, it wasn't intended that so many drivers with 12 points would evade disqualification. It is outrageous these individuals, who rack up offence after offence, are allowed to continue driving, causing enormous risk to the public. Drivers who repeatedly flout traffic laws have shown complete disregard for the lives of other road users. They have also had ample opportunity to desist breaking the law before reaching 12 points and facing disqualification. It's time for the government to get tough with these selfish, irresponsible and potentially deadly drivers, and put a stop to their illegal and dangerous driving before it results in a devastating crash."

Andy Goldby, Director of Underwriting and Pricing at Direct Line, said: "It seems 'exceptional hardship' isn't that exceptional after all. Someone who has accumulated more than 12 points on their licence has shown a complete disrespect for the law. It sends out an entirely wrong message that these individuals are still allowed to drive. Drivers with points on their licence are statistically more likely to have a collision and the likelihood increases with the more points they have. The 'hardship' one of these drivers would feel with the removal of their licence is nothing compared to someone involved in a collision with one of them. The system is being abused and it needs to be stopped."

Brake is working with Julie Hilling MP to press the government to take action to stop relentless, dangerous offenders evading disqualification. On 13 September, Julie Hilling asked Kenneth Clarke, Justice Minister, to investigate why so many drivers with 12 points are keeping their licence and he agreed to do so (see here). As yet he has not reported progress or promised action to protect the public.

Julie Hilling, MP for Bolton West, said: "Dangerous driving is an enormous problem both locally and throughout the country. It appears to be persistent offenders that are the main culprits. It is vital that this issue is kept at the forefront and that Ministers take action to resolve this. I am pleased that the Justice Secretary has promised to investigate and I look forward to hearing the results of his findings".

Brake argues the number of drivers escaping bans makes a mockery of the justice system and the system of penalty points. This is particularly so in cases where drivers repeatedly evade bans, continuing to tot up points even after they have claimed 'exceptional hardship'. Incredibly, drivers who continue to tot up points can argue 'exceptional hardship' more than once to evade a ban for a second or third time [5].

Brake is calling on the government to end the discretion given to the courts which allows drivers to evade a ban by arguing 'exceptional hardship'. Brake is calling for automatic bans, as for drink-driving offences, when drivers reach 12 points, given that most drivers who reach 12 points have committed several dangerous offences, and had ample opportunity to amend their ways and drive within the law. It also wants the government to investigate and close administrative loopholes that could lead to drivers escaping a ban.

Brake is urging the public to write to their MP to ask them to put pressure on the Kenneth Clarke to get tough with bad drivers who repeatedly flout laws and put lives at risk.

The risks
The danger that uninsured drivers bring to the roads is very real. Research shows that people who take to the road uninsured are more likely to crash and cause tragic deaths and injuries [6], so it's vital we see action to remove these irresponsible and illegal drivers from our roads. Recent research by Direct Line and Brake shows that over three million drivers have been in a crash with an uninsured driver [7].

Speeding is a major cause and contributor to crashes that kill and maim [8]. Physics tells us that the faster a vehicle is driven, the less time there is to react to hazards, and, if a collision takes place with another vehicle, cyclist, pedestrian or inanimate object, the more powerful the impact and the greater the likelihood of deaths and serious injuries. Drivers who repeatedly break speed limits have shown a disregard for the safety of other road users, and research shows they are more likely to crash [9], causing deaths and injury. Read Brake's factsheet on speed.

Drivers who talk on a phone of any kind while driving are four times more likely to be involved in a crash that causes injury [10]. Drivers who use their phone at the wheel are therefore endangering their own lives and those of other innocent road users. Read Brake's factsheet on mobile phones.

Regional breakdown of drivers with 12 points or more on their licence
12points

Brake
Brake is an independent road safety charity. Brake exists to stop the five deaths and 65 serious injuries that happen on UK roads every day and to care for families bereaved and seriously injured in road crashes. Brake runs awareness-raising campaigns, community education programmes, events such as Road Safety Week (21-27 November 2011), and a Fleet Safety Forum scheme, providing advice to companies. Brake's support division cares for road crash victims through a helpline and other services.

Direct Line
Started in 1985, Direct Line became the first UK insurance company to use the telephone as its main channel of communication. It provides motor, home, travel and pet insurance cover direct to customers by phone or on-line.

Direct Line is part of RBS Insurance, the second largest general insurer in the UK1 and is wholly owned by the Royal Bank of Scotland Group. Customers can find out more about Direct Line products or get a quote by calling 0845 246 3761 or visiting www.directline.com

Direct Line Insurance plc is authorised and regulated by the Financial Services Authority. Registered office: 3 Edridge Road, Croydon, Surrey CR9 1AG. Registered in England and Wales no. 01810801. The Financial Services Authority's Register can be accessed through http://www.fsa.gov.uk

1Based on 2009 FSA returns (policies in force).

[1] Information provided by the DVLA to Brake through a Freedom of Information request in August 2011
[2] 13,449 drivers disqualified according to report in the Independent on 28 August 2011 citing DVLA data
[3] Reported road casualties Great Britain 2010 annual report, Department for Transport, 2011.
[4] Due to the format of information supplied to us from the DVLA it is not possible to correlate offences to drivers in geographical areas when there is more than one driver with a specific number of points.
[5] Drivers cannot use the same set of circumstances twice, but they can provide another cause of exceptional hardship to successfully evade a ban on these grounds again.
[6] Car insurance and the risk of car crash injury, University of Sydney, 2003
[7] Over three million drivers have been in a crash with an uninsured driver, Brake and Direct Line, 2011
[8] The effects of drivers' speed on the frequency of road accidents, Transport Research Laboratory, 2000.
[9] Predicting road traffic accidents: The role of social deviance and violations, University of Manchester, 1997
[10] Role of mobile phones in motor vehicle crashes resulting in hospital attendance: a case-crossover study, University of Western Australia, 2005