Probationary period - how it works

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Few things compare with the elation of passing your driving test, but a full licence brings a lot of responsibility. And with so many rules and regulations it’s easy to get things wrong – intentionally, or otherwise.

With ever more cameras on our streets it’s easy to get caught breaking the rules; get nicked and you can kiss your clean licence goodbye, pushing up your insurance premium. Notch up six points within two years of passing your test, and you’ll lose your licence altogether, but keeping your licence clean isn’t difficult – just drive sensibly and you’ll be fine.

These are some of the key ways you can come unstuck when driving; most offences carry points rather than a disqualification, but for some offences a ban is mandatory, and even in cases where the court has a power to endorse with penalty points it also has the power to disqualify. So be careful out there… 

How probation works

Drivers used to be able to notch up 12 points before losing their licence, but when the New Drivers' Act came in 1995 it cut this to just six points for the first two years.

This 24-month span is called the probationary period, and it applies to anyone gaining a new licence, regardless of age or experience. If you rack up any points when you’re learning, those points will be carried over from your provisional licence to your full – so you won’t be starting with a clean slate.

For more information on how it works, log on to 

Key offences

Running a red light

Obeying traffic lights isn’t optional; go through one on red and you’re guaranteed three points and a £100 fine.


Get snapped speeding and that’s three points plus a £ 100 fine. Contest it when you’re in the wrong and you’ll get up to six points and possibly a £1000 fine; go crazy on the motorway and you could be fined £2500 and get an unlimited ban.

Failing to stop at a zebra crossing

This is the same as if you fail to take notice of a red light – which means three points and a fine of up to £1000.

Dangerous overtaking

Even if it’s a broken white line you’re crossing, overtake when it’s unsafe and you could be done for driving without due care and attention. That means a fine of up to £2500 and 3-9 points.

Defective tyres

If your tyres are flat, bald or damaged in any way, you can get a £2500 fine and three points – for each tyre.

On mobile

It’s legal to use your mobile with a bluetooth hands-free kit, but it’s not recommended. Get caught using it hand-held and you can look forward to three points plus a £ 100 fine. Crash while texting or making a call and you’ll almost certainly go to jail if you kill someone.

Not in proper control

This can be anything from eating, smoking or drinking to shaving, reading or using a laptop while driving. Do any of these and you could be given three points and fined £ 100 – especially if you crash as a result of your actions.

Drink or drug driving

Get nicked while you’re over the limit or under the influence of drugs, and your licence is history. You can kiss it goodbye for a year, and if it’s your second offence within ten years you’re on the bus for the next three years. You can also be jailed for up to six months and fined up to five grand. And if you can get insurance after all this, you’ll be doing well.

Failing to stop after accident

If you crunch your car causing personal injury to someone, you have to stop and give your details, then report the incident at a police station. Fail to do these things and you could be banned from driving. Either way you’ll get 5-10 points plus a fine of up to five grand.

No insurance

Your car has to be insured if you use it on the public road. Drive uninsured and you’ll get stung for up to £5000, you’ll get 6-8 points on your licence, you could be banned indefinitely and you might have to sit a retest. Ouch!

No MoT

It’s easy to forget that your MoT has expired, but do so, keep driving, get caught and you could be fined up to £1000. However, no MoT can mean you also have no insurance…

No driving licence

Get caught driving without a valid licence and you’ll get 3-6 points, you’ll be fined up to a grand, and if you’re caught driving while disqualified you can be put in the slammer for six months, fined £5000 and banned indefinitely.