In this fact page we will cover:

  • How penalty points and driving bans are used
  • The charges for causing death and injury on the road
  • Hit and run and the law
Driving is a privilege, not a right, and those who show a disregard for the law shouldn’t be allowed to endanger others.

Penalty points and driving bans

The penalty-points system is designed to protect the public from dangerous repeat offenders. People convicted of driving offences can have their driving record 'endorsed' with penalty points.

People who build up 12 or more penalty points within a period of 3 years can face being disqualified from driving.

There are different endorsements for different offences, each with a code and with a scale of penalty points from 1-11. The more serious offences receive more penalty points. Offence codes and penalty points stay on your driving record for between four and eleven years, depending on the offence.

The period of a totting up disqualification may be reduced or avoided for exceptional hardship or other mitigating circumstances if the court thinks fit to do so. No account is to be taken of hardship that is not exceptional hardship or circumstances alleged to make the offence not serious.

Sentencing Council

Brake and Direct Line survey of UK drivers, 2019


The Ministry of Justice decides the offences drivers can be charged with and their maximum penalties. The Crown Prosecution Service then decides which charge to prosecute a driver for in court. Judges then determine the length of sentence if the driver is convicted, working within maximum penalties and using guidelines from the Sentencing Council.

For more information about driving offences and the maximum penalties, go to

Driving offences involving death and their penalties Down arrow icon to open accordion

Driving offences in cases involving the death of another person include:

Driving offences involving serious injury and their penalties Down arrow icon to open accordion

Driving offences in cases involving the serious injury of another person include:

A serious injury is defined as one that is in scope of grievous bodily harm under the Offences Against the Person Act 1861.

Careless or dangerous driving

When a driver causes a death or serious injury, they might be prosecuted with an offence relating to either 'careless' or 'dangerous' driving.

The difference between 'careless' and 'dangerous' driving in the eyes of the law is slight and subjective but the difference in penalties between these charges is significant. The Crown Prosecution Service may opt for the less serious charge of 'careless' over 'dangerous', as a conviction for a 'careless' offence is more likely to succeed. However, this can result in punishments which can be seen as to lenient, especially in the eyes of victims and their families and friends.

The difference between careless and dangerous driving is essentially a question of degree compared to that of the careful and competent driver. If the driving falls below that standard it is likely to be careless driving and if the driving falls far below that standard it is likely to be considered as dangerous.

Ministry of Justice


Hit and run

A hit and run, known in law as 'Failure to stop or report an accident', is a criminal offence in any case where injury or damage has been caused. The driver is required to stop at the scene and provide their name and address and that of the owner of the vehicle.

Failure to stop is categorised as a summary offence. These offences are usually heard in a magistrates court and carry relatively minor sentences - upon conviction a defendant can be sentenced to a penalty point endorsement of between 5-10 points or could be sent to prison for up to 26 weeks. The fine imposed by the Court could be up to £5,000. Summary offences can only be brought if the information is in front of the magistrates court within 6 months after the incident.

This page was reviewed in February 2024.