The penalty points system was introduced in the Republic of Ireland in 2002. Since its introduction, 2,278 drivers have been disqualified from driving and there are currently 227 disqualified drivers, according to the Department of Transport. Drivers have to accumulate 12 penalty points in a three-year period before they are disqualified from driving.

More that 75% of penalty points on licences in Ireland are for speeding. Speeding accounts for 90% of the total points held by licence holders in Leitrim. This is the highest percentage in the country, followed by Sligo (86%), Louth (85%) and Tipperary (83%).

The average number of penalty points per driving licence in Ireland is 0.25. Clare and Wicklow have the highest average at 0.31 points per licence. These are followed by Kildare and Longford (both 0.30). Motorists from Donegal (0.16 points), Monaghan (0.18), Mayo (0.19), Kerry (0.20), Cavan and Galway (both 0.22) have the lowest average number of points.

After speeding, the main offender is using a mobile phone while driving, which accounts for 11% of all penalty points issued.

The third highest misdemeanour is related to seatbelts, with 4% of points issued to drivers who fail to ensure they or their passengers are wearing one.

The regional breakdown was released to Irish Country Living by the Department of Transport and shows penalty points that are currently on licences. Out of the 1,047,686 points recorded, just 62% (652,350) were allocated. Over 250,000 of those not allocated relate to foreign drivers and the rest are Irish drivers who failed to supply a licence for an offence that required a mandatory court appearance.

A loophole in the courts system prevented points being added if a driver did not give their licence to a judge. This saw thousands escape penalty points over the years. Offences that necessitate a court appearance include driving carelessly and using a vehicle without an NCT certificate.

These motorists usually made a donation to the poor box in lieu of points. However, the High Court disallowed this practice in March 2014. Despite this ruling, a report released by PARC (Promoting Awareness, Responsibility and Care on our Roads) in July found that points were still not being added to licences.

Figures obtained by the group show that, of the 31,664 motorists convicted of driving offences from January 2013 to June 2014, only 10,510 (33.2%) had their driving licence number recorded.

PARC received a response from Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald, who said the court service is working with An Garda Síochána to ensure prosecutions will commence by the end of the year if drivers fail to produce their licence in court.

Penalty points for 22 different offences increased from 1 August. For example, drivers who pay the fine will now receive three points for speeding instead of two. On conviction, if the driver fails to pay the fine and goes to court, this increases to five.

As of Monday of this week, 127 people were killed on our roads, compared to 120 for the same period last year.

Points & premiums

Insurance companies can increase premiums or refuse to provide a quotation based on penalty points.

“The threshold at which these points are used to determine acceptance of the quotation and the premium varies from insurer to insurer. More than six is a fairly common threshold,” says Howard Cummins, FBD underwriting personal lines manager.

“The action each insurer will take based on the number of penalty points declared varies. FBD, like most other insurers, require the declaration of all penalty points. Generally, those with six or less points will have no issue.”

The Department of Transport has recently introduced a new measure which granted insurance companies access to the penalty points database. Before this, they relied on information provided by motorists. A driver’s history is available from the Transport’s National Vehicle Driver File (NVDF). Insurers can find out the penalty point offence that drivers incurred, whether it involved drink driving, speeding or using a mobile phone.