'˜Dangerous drivers' with up to 36 penalty points escape driving bans in Sunderland
Dozens of 'dangerous drivers' are still on the roads in Sunderland, despite racking up enough points for a ban.
Analysis of DVLA data reveals that 68 drivers in the Sunderland area have managed to dodge a ban after being given 12 or more penalty points on their licence – the usual threshold for losing a licence.
Road safety charity Brake has slammed the current system, which it says is allowing “repeat offenders” to exploit loopholes in the law.
It has accused the Government and courts of being “complicit” in putting the public at risk.
Currently, if a driver can convince a magistrate that they, or an innocent party such as a family member, will face ‘exceptional hardship’ as a result of losing their licence they may be permitted to keep it.
The latest figures, which record penalty points as of July, show there are almost 11,000 drivers across Great Britain who have retained their licences despite passing the points limit, some with more than 40 or 50 points.
In Sunderland the highest number of points received by one driver who is still allowed to drive is 36.
Around 25 in every 100,000 local drivers have at least 12 points on their licence, above the national average of 23 per 100,000.
The data is recorded by postcode district, so some drivers could live just across the border in neighbouring local authority areas.
The country’s worst serial offender is a 44-year-old man from Wolverhampton or the wider south Staffordshire area, with 54 points.
Joshua Harris, director of campaigns at Brake, said it is “hugely concerning” that so many offenders are being allowed to keep driving.
He continued: “By ignoring the exploitation of the ‘exceptional hardship’ loophole that allows unsafe drivers to remain on our roads, the Government and courts are complicit in increasing the risk to the public.
“This dangerous loophole must be dealt with as a matter of urgency so that drivers who reach 12 points are automatically disqualified, protecting the general public from harm.
“Driving is a privilege, not a right and if that privilege is not exercised responsibly, it must be taken away.”
The charity is calling for the loophole to be closed as part of its Roads to Justice campaign, which says an urgent review should be carried out on the “fundamentally flawed road traffic framework”.
Drivers can pick up penalty points – also known as endorsements – for a range of offences.
Minor offences, such as speeding or failing to stop at a pedestrian crossing, might attract three points and will stay on your licence for four years unless it is wiped clean.
Serious offences, such as drink or drug driving, could get you up to 11 points, and these will stay on your licence for 11 years.
If a driver gets 12 or more points in three years they will usually be banned from driving for six months.
A Ministry of Justice spokesman said: “The vast majority of drivers who get 12 penalty points are automatically disqualified.
“The courts have access to DVLA records which are taken into account, but sentencing is rightly a matter for independent judges based on the facts of each case.”
John Bache, Chair of the Magistrates Association, added: “The process for establishing exceptional hardship is robust – magistrates scrutinise every case very carefully and an individual would only avoid a ban if the magistrates sitting in the case are confident that exceptional hardship would genuinely be caused.”