Penalty points overview
We all know and dread the letter plopping in through the door that tells us we’ve been done for speeding or using our mobile phone, and that there are now penalty points applied to our licence. As if the fines (and the shame) weren’t bad enough, we get to have these scarlet letters (numbers, actually) branded on our licences as a reminder of what we did wrong, and a warning not to do it again.
Of course, it really is all for our own good, no matter how painful, and the points system is part of the Road Safety Authority’s ‘Closing The Gap’ strategy, which, by 2020, is intended to bring Ireland’s road safety standards up to the same level as those of the UK, Sweden and The Netherlands, all of which set the bar for driving excellence.
“The penalty points system has proved to have been an effective deterrent in changing road users’ behaviour for the better over the past decade. The system needs to be continuously reviewed and updated to keep ahead of driver behaviour trends and actions. It will be extended over the course of this strategy to cover new safety related traffic offences” said the RSA.
The latest update to the penalty points system was made last year (2016), when, in addition to an €80 on the spot fine, driving with excessively worn tyres (i.e. under the minimum 1.6mm tread depth limit) now carries a two-point penalty, and that can rise to four points if you take the case to court.
Of course, there are the big, headline offences that carry penalty points, such as using a hand-held mobile phone or other device, which carries a three-point penalty on the spot, or five points in a court judgement. Speeding carries the same penalties (although you get fined more for speeding than you do for using a phone), as does driving without a seatbelt.
Don’t forget, if you run up 12 points (or seven points if you’re on a learner's permit) then that amounts to automatic disqualification.
And it’s easier to run up points than you might imagine. Everyone knows the speeding, drinking, seatbelt and phone points, but there are a myriad of other offences that will add up the points pretty quickly. The most serious are failure to have a current NCT, incorrect or illegal number plates, or no number plate at all, parking in a dangerous position, failure to stop for a stop or yield sign, dangerous overtaking, crossing a continuous white line, failure to observe traffic lights, tailgating, plus improper use and or non-use of correct child safety seats and restraints, all of which will get you three points on the spot, rising to five points in the case of a conviction.
Offences that will get you two points on your licence include not having a qualified driver with you when you’re a learner, failure to display L- or N-plates, making an illegal U-turn, failure to comply with traffic signs, failure to stop for a Garda (or a school warden, for that matter) and the catch-all ‘failure to drive without reasonable consideration.’
One-point offences include proceeding beyond a no-entry sign, driving over ‘ghost islands’ or angled hatch lines, driving on the motorway in a vehicle that can’t get above 50km/h, reversing from a minor road onto a main road, driving on a footpath or cycle path, going the wrong way up a one-way street, or driving an over-weight vehicle.
If your blood alcohol level is between 50mg and 80mg (50mg is the legal limit) and commit any of the offences on the penalty point list, then there’ll be an extra three points added on.
All the data for penalty points is available on the Road Safety Authority’s website and it’s well worth reading up, if for no other reason than to remind yourself to be careful and attentive when behind the wheel.