Driving laws - the new rules all drivers should know

We all know the rules of the road are updated pretty frequently but how up to date are you on the new driving laws?


We all know the rules of the road are updated pretty frequently but how up to date are you on the new driving laws?

Many changes have been introduced in recent years, including tougher penalties for those who use their phones at the wheel, MOT exemptions and changes to the driving test.

Here’s our breakdown of the new driving laws, rule changes and legislation that you need to be aware of – or risk facing fines, driving bans or even a criminal record.

Learner drivers on the motorway

Since 4 June, 2018, learner drivers have been allowed to take lessons on the motorway for the first time, as long as they are with an approved instructor and in a car with dual controls displaying L plates.

The aim is to help new drivers become more confident and capable on motorways. However, motorway driving won’t form part of the test. During a motorway driving lesson, learners will get training on skills such as how to join and leave the motorway, using lanes correctly and what do if a vehicle breaks down on a motorway.

New MOT regulations

The annual MOT roadworthiness test changed in England, Scotland and Wales on 20 May, 2018, and it was mixed news for motorists.

Faults identified in the MOT test are now classified as Minor, Major and Dangerous. Minor faults will work the same as the current advisory system and won’t fail. 

However, Major or Dangerous faults will automatically fail, and if a fault is found to be dangerous it is illegal to drive the vehicle until the issue has been resolved.

New items tested during the MOT for the first time included reversing lights, fluid leaks posing an environmental, obviously underinflated tyres and brake fluid quality, plus daytime running lights and headlight washers (if fitted on post 1 September 2009 vehicles).

There's good news for most owners of classic cars 40 years or over because they are now exempt from MOT testing.

However, it's bad news for diesel car fitted with a diesel particulate filter (DPF), which captures and stores exhaust soot to reduce emissions from diesel cars. If an MOT tester can see smoke of any colour coming from the exhaust or finds evidence that the DPF has been tampered with, the car will fail.

Driving test changes

On 4 December, 2017 the driving test in England, Scotland and Wales was changed to "make sure new drivers have the skills they’ll need to help them through a lifetime of safe driving". 

The independent driving part of the test (driving without turn-by-turn directions from the examiner) increased from 10 to 20 minutes. During this part of the test, most candidates will be asked to follow directions from a sat nav.

‘Reverse around a corner’ and ‘turn-in-the-road’ manoeuvres are no longer be tested, though they should still be taught by an instructor. Instead, drivers are asked to complete one of three possible reversing manoeuvres - parallel parking, parking in a bay, and pulling up on the right-hand side of the road, reversing for two car lengths, then rejoining the traffic.

Finally, candidates now have to answer two vehicle safety question while driving, and these are known as ‘show me, tell me’ questions. For example, ‘show me’ how to wash the windscreen using the car controls and wipers.

Graduated driving licence

The Department for Transport is investigating whether or not it should introduce graduated driving licences (GDL) in the UK and what restrictions would be imposed if they did.

Under the proposals, new drivers would have a limit on the amount of passengers they could carry, in a bid to reduce the number of road deaths involving young people aged 17-24. They would also have to display a ‘P’ for two years after passing their test and undertake a minimum of six months' training before taking a driving test.

The GDL could also prohibit younger people from driving after dark, restrict the engine size for new drivers and even add a second driving test following a probationary period.

Using a mobile phone at the wheel?

It’s been illegal to use a hand-held mobile phone while driving, or while the engine is on, since December 2003. However, the government has cracked down further and penalties have recently become a lot tougher.

From 1 March, 2017, drivers have seen fixed penalty notices double from £100 to £200 and from three points to six points on their licence if they are caught using their phone behind the wheel.

The law still also applies if you are stopped at lights or queuing in traffic.

Using a sat nav while driving

The same rules apply to the use of any ‘internet device’ at the wheel. If you want to use a device, look for a suitable place to stop, and make sure your engine is turned off.

It's okay to use your mobile phone as a sat nav, but it must be secured correctly in a holder and out of the 45-degree angle of the driver’s view and you cannot press any buttons while driving.

Any new drivers tempted to check their texts or take a quick selfie while driving risk losing their licence. That’s because any driver issued with six points within two years of passing their test is automatically disqualified.

Speeding fines

Motorists caught speeding now face tougher penalties, which came into force from 24 April, 2017. Drivers can be charged up to 175% of their weekly wage, designed to make drivers think twice about carrying out speed offences.

A three band system has been introduced which determines the severity of an offence and corresponds to different charges, which are then calculated on a percentage basis:

Band A – the driver would have been going between one and 10mph over the speed limit and can face a fine of between 25% and 75% of their weekly wage.

Band B – drivers may have been travelling between 11 and 21mph over the speed limit facing fines of between 75% and 125% of their weekly salary.

Band C – these drivers face the largest fines – between 125% and 175% of their weekly salary and would have been travelling more than 21mph over the speed limit. As the most serious offenders, drivers who face Band C charges could receive a 56-day ban or get six points on their licence.

Child car seat laws

Under new rules which came into force on 1 March, 2017, it’s illegal to have your child’s car seat fitted incorrectly. 

The law requires all children travelling in the front or rear seat of a car must use the correct child car seat until they are either 135cm in height or 12 years old, whichever comes first. 

It is the driver's responsibility to ensure that children under the age of 14 years are restrained correctly in accordance with the law.

As well as risking a £500 fine if you’re caught using an unsuitable or incorrectly fitted car seat, you're also putting your child's safety at risk in the event of a crash.

Additionally, only children who weigh 22kg or more, or are 125cm tall, can use backless booster seats. The new law affects newly designed and manufactured booster seats sold after March 1 2017. The older rules (children weighing as little as 15kg) still applies to seats manufactured prior to this date.