How it works, why it matters

Penalty points are designed to encourage safe driving and reduce casualties on our roads. This section explains how the system works and lists the offences that incur penalty points.

Background

The penalty points system for driving offences was introduced in Ireland on 31 October 2002. The aim of penalty points is to improve driver behaviour in Ireland and reduce the levels of death and serious injury on our roads.The system was extended to insurance, seat belt wearing and careless driving offences in 2003 and 2004.

Additional offences were added in April 2006, May 2009 and October 2011. As and from 3 August 2012 seven offences will take effect. Five of these are new offences while two replace/restate existing penalty points offences.  The new offences relate to child restraints in vehicles, bus drivers being required to wear seat belts and vehicle weights. The offences being replaced/restated  relate to seat belts in cars. Details of the changes effective from 3 August 2012 are set out below.

Table 1- Penalty Points Offences effective 3 August 2012

The two offences described in the Table below have been removed from the Penalty Point Schedule

Fixed Charge €
Offences incurring penalty points Penalty points on payment Penalty points on conviction Amount paid in
28 days
Amount
paid in next 28 days
Failure by Driver to comply with front seat belt requirements 2 4 60 90
Failure by Driver to comply with rear seat belt requirements for passengers under 17 years 2 4 60 90


and replaced with the following new offences

 

Fixed Charge €
Offences incurring penalty points Penalty points on payment Penalty points on conviction Amount paid in
28 days
Amount
paid in next 28 days
Driver of car or goods vehicle not wearing safety belt 2 4 60 90
Driver permitting person under 17 years of age to occupy a seat when not wearing safety belt 2 4 60 90


The total number of penalty point offences as and from 3 August 2012 stands at 48. Fixed-charge fines,which are fines imposed that can be paid without going to court, for motorists guilty of driving offences were also introduced.

These apply to a range of non-penalty point offences as well as penalty-point offences.

Seven new fixed charge offences apply from 3 August 2012- these offences will not attract penalty points but a fixed charge notice, setting out the fine payable,  will issue to the driver. The fixed charge offences being introduced  are set out below

Fixed Charge €
Offences incurring penalty points Penalty points on payment Penalty points on conviction Amount paid in
28 days
Amount
paid in next 28 days
Driver of car or goods vehicle permitting child under 3 years of age to travel in it without being restrained by appropriate child restraint 2 4 60 90
Driver of car or goods vehicle permitting child over 3 years of age to travel in it without being restrained by appropriate child restraint 2 4 60 90
Driver of car or goods vehicle permitting child to be restrained by rearward facing child restraint fitted to a seat protected by active frontal air-bag 2 4 60 90
Driver of bus not wearing safety belt 2 4 60 90


The law governing penalty points is the Road Traffic Act 2002.

Penalty point systems operate in a number of other countries, including Australia, Denmark, England and Germany. International experience has shown that penalty points reduce the number of road deaths.

What are penalty points?

A penalty point is essentially a formal reprimand by the Gardai endorsed on your driving licence record that shows you are guilty of a specific driving offence.

From 3 August there are  48 road traffic offences that attract penalty points.
 
By the end of June 2012, a total of 797,670 drivers in Ireland had penalty points endorsed on their driving licences. Of that total number, 446,061 held full driving licences, 30,191 were learner-permit holders and 321,418 had no Irish driving licence.

How does the system work?

 Penalty point offences are recorded on your driving licence if:

  • You are convicted of a driving offence that attracts penalty points, or 
  • You are served with a fixed charge notice for an alleged offence that attracts penalty points and you opt to pay the fine rather than having the matter referred to the courts

Any driver accumulating 12 penalty points within any given three-year period will be automatically disqualified from driving for six months. The driver is required to surrender his/her licence to the appropriate licensing authority within 14 days of receiving notification of the disqualification. It is an offence not to surrender a licence. It is also an offence to drive while disqualified.

Penalty points remain on the licence for a period of three years.

While penalty points are endorsed on your driving licence, the points do not physically appear on the licence. Instead, your points are recorded on your driving licence record. These records are held on the National Vehicle and Driver file operated by the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport.

If you have committed a driving offence that incurs penalty points you will receive a written notification informing you that points are being added to your driving licence. This notice will include details of your name, address, date time and location of the driving offence concerned. It will also confirm that you either paid the fixed charge for the offence or were convicted in the court of such offence. The notice will also contain a date on which the notice was issued to you. This is the important date as the points will only be added to your licence 28 days after this date.

Payment of fixed charges

Offences can be detected by Garda interception or, in the case of speeding offences, by speed cameras. 

Where a Garda interception takes place you must show your driving licence to the Garda so that he/she can take your driver number. In most cases, a fixed charge notice setting out the fine payable will then be issued, and you have the option of paying the fixed charge or allowing the matter to proceed to court. 

A person has 28 days from the date the fixed charge notice is issued to pay. Anyone who pays in the subsequent 28 days pays that amount plus 50%. Court proceedings are initiated if a fixed charge is not paid within this 56-day period.

Most penalty point offences also attract fixed charges, but a small number of offences result in automatic summons to court without the option of paying a fixed charge.

Where an offence is detected by camera, the fixed-charge notice will be sent to the registered owner. The Road Traffic Act provides that unless another person is identified as the driver it will be assumed that the registered owner was driving the vehicle at the time of the occurrence of the alleged offence.

There is an explicit requirement that where the registered owner of a vehicle was not driving or using the vehicle he or she must give the name and contact details of the driver of the vehicle. No payment should be enclosed. 

When this information is received, the fixed charge notice will be issued to the named driver, on whose licence record the points will be endorsed, either on payment of a fixed charge or a court conviction. 

What licences do penalty points apply to?

Penalty points apply to both learner permits and full Irish driving licences.

Computerisation

Since 2006 the way the penalty points system is run from an enforcement perspective has changed significantly. Most notably, the Garda fixed-charge payment system is now computerised and the Garda computer system is linked to the courts for the roll-out of the extended penalty points system. This has made the system more efficient and increased its deterrent value.

For enquiries about the Penalty Point system, please email info@ndls.ie.

Road Safety Authority
Ballina
Co Mayo
Tel 1890 41 61 41
Email: info@ndls.ie  
Web: www.rsa.ie