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What is a "totting up" ban?

A "totting up" ban is when you accrue 12 or more penalty points on your driver's licence in three years, resulting in a ban of 6 months or more. There is, however, the potential for motorists to persuade the court that their driving ban would cause "exceptional hardship" yet there is no single fundamental element that can be attributed to the success of this argument, so the unique circumstances of each case must be taken into consideration.

Understanding Penalty Points and Totting Up

Penalty points are endorsements issued to motorists for offences they have committed, staying on record for between 4 and 11 years. Points can be issued for various violations, such as driving while disqualified, careless driving, drink driving, using an uninsured vehicle, using a handheld phone when driving, or speeding. The penalty point endorsements vary depending on the offence(s) committed. For some, the endorsement is fixed whereas other offences vary, with a range of points.

All motorists must understand just how quickly a totting up ban can occur. Let's say you were given 3 points from a traffic light offence and were later prosecuted for driving without due care and attention (which carries between 3 and 9 points). These two offences alone will result in a totting up ban if the maximum penalty (9 points) is imposed. Furthermore, when you have 9 points, any offence committed will trigger a potential totting up ban.

Presenting Exceptional Hardship

There is no statutory definition of 'exceptional hardship'; therefore, every court has to consider each case on its facts. Below are just several examples that may be accepted:

  • Loss of employment where a defendant is the sole wage earner in their family, meaning the family or dependents will suffer.
  • An individual with severe health problems that may have their ability to get around significantly reduced compared to a person who is of good health.
  • A risk to the job stability of staff, if a manager, business owner or another key employee is unable to fulfil their role.

If you have already successfully argued exceptional hardship in the past but have now committed a further offence, you are not able to use the same argument. You must rely on entirely different reasons.

How long will a ban last?

The court will decide how long the disqualification will last, based on how serious they believe the offence is. As discussed, you can be banned from driving if you already have 12 or more penalty points on your licence, and the ban can last:

  • 6 months — if you get 12 or more penalty points within 3 years.
  • 1 year — if you get a second disqualification within 3 years.
  • 2 years — if you get a third disqualification within 3 years.

If you're disqualified for 56 days or more, you must apply for a new licence before driving again. You may have to retake your driving test or take an extended driving test before receiving your full licence, but the court will let you know if you are required to do so.

Can you delay a case to prevent totting up from occurring?

No. Many people believe that by delaying a court case, they can escape the totting up rule. Even if you have 9 points and 3 of which are due to expire in the next few days, delaying the hearing until after the points have expired will not escape disqualification. The court will always look at the number of points that were live on your licence at the time of your most recent offence.

Can bans be prevented or reduced?

Yes, but again only if the court accepts your argument of exceptional hardship. If a court accepts that a driving ban would cause exceptional hardship, the ban may not be waived entirely, yet it may be reduced in length. Again, it depends entirely on the type of case at hand, the complete history and the implications.

Why the totting up ban is part of a broader debate on road safety

According to DVLA figures (analysed by Auto Express magazine) over 9,000 UK motorists are 'in possession of both a valid licence and 12 or more penalty points'. Brake, the road safety charity, is one of many organisations to have called for those who have 12 points on their licence to be prevented from invoking the argument of "exceptional hardship" and instead face an automatic driving ban. The UK Sentencing Council, which sets guidelines for judges on sentencing, opened a consultation and advised that although losing a job may cause hardship, it should not automatically be considered 'exceptional hardship'. Lord Justice Holroyde, chairman of the Sentencing Council, stated:

"In response to requests from magistrates and other court users, we have recently consulted on proposed new guidance that will set out the matters to be considered by the courts when deciding exceptional hardship applications. We will consider the responses to that consultation, and will issue guidance that will help make sure these cases are dealt with fairly, consistently and in accordance with the law."

What can you do about my case?

We appreciate you'll have many questions and concerns if you're at risk of being disqualified from driving, and if you do not feel you can run the risk of not being able to drive for 6 months, we may be in a position to help. Making the case of exceptional hardship can often require a combination of several elements to persuade the court, and we will be glad to listen and learn more about your situation. Our motoring expert, Andrew Brumhill ( or 07976 238872), has presented many exceptional hardship arguments that have resulted in no disqualification being imposed or reduced bans — and we respond to enquiries seven days a week. If you'd like to tell us more about your summons or have a general query, please send us a message or call us today on 07000 81 82 83.

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