A road safety campaigner says it is “appalling” that seven motorists in Northern Ireland have not been disqualified from driving despite having 12 or more points on their driver's licence.
Figures released by the Driver and Vehicle Agency (DVA) show that two of the drivers have 14 penalty points, but are still legally allowed to drive.
Of those still driving with 14 points, one is from Armagh and the other from Ballymena.
Of the five people with 12 points on their licence, two are from Belfast, two from Newry, and one is from Downpatrick.
The figures were obtained by a Freedom of Information request from the Belfast Telegraph to the DVA. There is no automatic disqualification of drivers who reach 12 points, with judges having discretion to let motorists continue to drive.
A spokesman for the DVA said: “The Driver and Vehicle Agency does not have the power to disqualify a person — a disqualification may only be ordered by a court, as detailed in the Road Traffic Offenders Order 1996.”
Drivers who acquire 12 penalty points in a three-year period are liable to be disqualified from driving for at least six months, however the courts may decide not to disqualify somebody because of mitigating factors.
The revelation has surprised road safety experts.
Pat Martin, chair of the Road Safety Council for Northern Ireland, said: “I was totally unaware that any drivers with 12 points or more could avoid disqualification, I just assumed that it was an automatic ban.
“However, I've been told by a source within the police that certain more technical offences or certain mitigating factors might prompt the judge to reconsider.
“For example, if you are a delivery driver doing 50,000 miles a year, and you're the breadwinner for your family, the judge might be more lenient.
“Nonetheless, I find the fact that there are drivers driving around with 14 points on their licence appalling.”
However, the figures compare favourably with the rest of the UK where 9,000 motorists continue to drive despite having 12 or more penalty points on their licence, according to information which was obtained by Co-operative Motor Group.
One motorist in Bradford managed to accrue 32 penalty points after being caught driving while uninsured four times, earning eight points for each offence.
Managing director of Co-operative Motor Group Tony Guest said: “It is concerning that motorists with so many points on their licence can legally be allowed to continue to drive.
“We would hope that at the very least these drivers are having to undertake retraining to ensure that they do not reoffend, but we understand this is rarely the case.
“We would push for a standard test for drivers that reach 12 points for the safety of all road users.”