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Understanding Fixed Penalty Notices (FPNs)

Fixed penalty notices (FPNs) are issued to drivers who commit one of a wide range of offences, from not wearing a seatbelt, to speeding and running a red light. It's like an alternative to a court prosecution and carries a fine and often penalty points, too.

Research from Regtransfers found up to 12 million drivers get landed with a penalty notice every year – that's one issued every 2.5 seconds. The highest number of offenders in 2016/17 were in the Avon and Somerset region, with 1,785 penalties handed out per 10,000 drivers. Next were drivers in Cumbria (1,455), followed by Warwickshire (1,410) and Norfolk (1,388).

How are FPNs issued?

FPNs can be issued on the spot or posted to the offender. If you pay the fine and accept points (if applicable), no further action is required. But if you want to appeal the notice, you'll have to go to court.

A so-called 'endorsable' ticket carries a fine and penalty points (usually three), while non-endorsable tickets are fine-only.

How long do points stay on your licence?

Endorsable penalty notices carry a minimum of two points and a maximum of 11, notes the RAC, with the offence code (for example, SP30 for speeding) and points staying on the licence from four to 11 years. The number of points, and how long they remain on the licence, depend on the severity of the offence – in some cases, drivers can be immediately disqualified from getting behind the wheel.

Motoring offences don't typically count as criminal convictions. More serious offences – such as those dealt with in court, like drink driving – will show on your record and can result in a prison sentence.

How much are the fines?

FPN fines range from £50 to £300 depending on the nature of the offence. Here are some common offences listed by RAC and their cost:

  • £50 – Negligent use of vehicle (e.g. not in proper control); registration offences (e.g. registration mark not easily readable); motorway offences (e.g. stopping on the hard shoulder); noise offences (e.g. sounding the horn at night)
  • £100 – Failure to wear a seat belt; driving a car without valid MOT; speeding offences; careless driving (e.g. middle-lane hogging)
  • £200 – Duty to identify driver; using a mobile phone whilst driving (read our recent blog post on stricter penalties for driving with a phone)
  • £300 – Driving without insurance

Do I have to tell my insurer?

The Road Traffic Act 1998 states it's a legal offence to withhold information when applying for car insurance. When filling out a quote, you'll be asked if you've received any motoring convictions in the last few years, and it's vital you tell the truth. If you lie and then try to make a claim, you'll almost certainly have that claim denied – and it'll be you who's out of pocket.

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