More than 8,600 motorists have been allowed to continue driving despite racking up 12 or more penalty points - enough for an immediate ban.
Under ordinary circumstances, drivers are automatically disqualified from driving if they accrue 12 or more points but a freedom of information inquiry by the PA news agency has revealed thousands are being allowed to keep their licence despite repeatedly breaking the law.
The revelation has led to calls for the law to be changed to stop courts granting exemptions to a ban.
Most offences carry a minimum of three points, although the most serious cases can see up to 11 points applied to a licence for a single incident.
Under “totting up” rules, if a driver is given 12 or more points within three years, the courts should automatically disqualify them from driving for at least six months. However, a loophole allowing drivers to plead that a ban would cause them “exceptional hardship” means thousands of repeat offenders have kept their licences.
Figures obtained by PA show that there are currently 8,632 licence holders with at least 12 points.
Jason Wakeford, head of campaigns at safety charity Brake, said: “It is appalling that any driver can remain on the country’s roads despite having accumulated 12 points or more.
“These dangerous repeat offenders have been granted ample opportunity to change their driving behaviour, yet continue to put lives at risk through their complete disregard for the law.
“If drivers who rack up 12 points aren’t banned, it makes a mockery of the system.”
Marc Jones, chairman of the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners, said that the hardship exemption should be scrapped and sentencing guidelines updated to ensure consistency across the country.
He said: “The point system allows for people making mistakes … so you’ve had your warnings, you’ve had your flexibility to account for any mistakes. At that point it’s wilful, and you should pay the consequences, which should be to have your privilege of driving – not the right but the privilege of driving – revoked.”
The DVLA said drivers with 12 points are only allowed to keep their licence “in a small percentage of cases”, which mostly involve situations where disqualification would cause “exceptional hardship”.
The Government said it is for the courts to assess the evidence in each individual case to decide whether mitigating circumstances justify someone not being disqualified and that a defendant’s record is always considered when dealing with an exceptional hardship application.