Lifestyle Guides

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?

cars-on-motorway

Many changes have been introduced over the last year, including tougher penalties for using a mobile while driving and new "UK" number plates for travelling in the EU.

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 – plus some potential future changes.

Mobile phone use

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 now cracked down further, removing loopholes in the law.

From 2022, drivers can be stopped for taking photos or videos, scrolling through playlists or playing games while driving.

Anyone caught using their handheld device while driving will face a £200 fixed penalty notice and six points on their licence.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said the changes would bring the rule “into the 21st century”.

Under the tougher new rules, drivers will still be able to use a device such as satellite navigation ‘hands-free’ while driving, as long as it’s secured in a cradle. There will also be an exemption allowing drivers to make contactless payments when the car is stationary, for example at a drive-through. 

Motorists still must “take responsibility for their driving” and can be charged with an offence if the police find them not to be in proper control of their vehicle.

New rules for towing

Plans to change the law to allow drivers to tow a large trailer or caravan weighing up to 3,500kg without the need to pass an additional towing test were suspended at the eleventh hour in November 2021 until further notice.

No reason was given by the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA), which said that the new towing rules will now be introduced at a “later date, and as soon as possible”. 

Until the law changes, you must continue to follow the current rules about what you are allowed to tow based on when you passed your car driving test, says the DVSA.

You can be fined up to £1,000, be banned from driving and get up to six penalty points on your driving licence if you tow anything heavier before the law changes.

View the current towing rules on the government website

Clean air zones

In November 2021, Portsmouth followed Bath and Birmingham to become the third city to introduce a Clean Air Zone outside London.

Hire cars such as taxis are charged £10 per day to drive in the zone, while coaches and lorries are hit with a £50 fee. However, the charge doesn't affect private cars.

Failure to comply with the Portsmouth CAZ could result in hefty fines, with drivers charged £120 if they do not pay the CAZ charge within six days.

Further cities, including Bradford and Greater Manchester, will implement Clean Air Zones in 2022. 

Pavement parking ban

Drivers could be banned from parking on pavements as early as 2022. Ministers are considering whether to extend London’s ban to the whole country, with £70 fines for rule-breakers. The Department for Transport launched a consultation, and the results are expected to be announced soon.

Parking on pavements means wheelchair users, visually impaired people and parents with pushchairs can be forced into the road, which is not only dangerous but can also discourage people from walking.

Driving in the EU

If you’re planning to drive in the EU, you now need to display a UK sticker clearly on the rear of your vehicle if your number plate has a GB identifier with the Union flag, a national flag of England, Scotland or Wales, or numbers and letters only.

However, if your number plate already includes a UK identifier with the Union flag – also known as the Union Jack – you do not need to add a sticker when travelling in most EU countries.

The change was introduced in September 2021 and failure to comply could result in a fine, depending on the law of the country you are travelling in. Click here for government advice around driving in the EU.

Graduated driving licence

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

Under the proposals, new drivers would have a limit on the number 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.

The plan was put on hold in 2020, partly because not having a driving licence could affect young people's employment chances, but the Commons Transport Select Committee says there is evidence that GDLs can be "effective in reducing crash rates" and wants the government to resume research.

EV charge points legislation 

New homes and buildings such as supermarkets and workplaces, as well as those undergoing major renovation, will be required to install electric vehicle charge points from 2022.

With the ban on the sale of new petrol and diesel cars in 2030, the government is looking to supercharge the electric vehicle revolution and make it easier and simpler for people to switch.

It's hoped the new building regulations will see up to 145,000 extra charging points installed across England each year.

Larger London ULEZ

London's Ultra-Low Emission Zone expanded from October 2021 to include the entire area within the North Circular and South Circular roads (but the roads themselves aren’t included in this zone). 

It's estimated that about one in five vehicles in the enlarged 140 square mile zone are liable to pay the £12.50-a-day levy, including 100,000 older petrol and diesel cars, 35,000 vans and 3,000 lorries.

The ULEZ has operated since April 2019, but previously only covered the same area of central London as the Congestion Charge.

Speed limiters

From July 2022, all new vehicles sold in Europe will have to be fitted with Intelligent Speed Assistance (ISA) technology.

Otherwise known as speed limiters, these systems alert motorists if they’re driving too fast and will automatically slow the car’s speed if the driver doesn’t lower it themselves.

Self-driving cars

At some stage in 2022, it is expected motorists driving on motorways will be legally allowed to use Automated Lane Keeping Systems (ALKS) that are fitted to the latest models.

ALKS can take full control of the car's steering, controlling its movements for extended periods of time without the driver needing to do anything. 

However, the driver must be ready and able to resume driving control within seconds if prompted by the vehicle.

“Automated driving systems could prevent 47,000 serious accidents and save 3,900 lives over the next decade through their ability to reduce the single largest cause of road accidents – human error," said Mike Hawes, Chief Executive of The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders Limited.

I'm an experienced journalist, digital editor and copywriter, now specialising in motoring. I’m editor of Automotive Blog and have worked across the media in newspapers, magazines, TV, teletext, radio and online for household names including the BBC, GMTV, ITV and MSN. I’ve produced digital content in the financial sector for Lloyds Bank, Nationwide and the Money Advice Service. I'm married with two children and live near Bath in Somerset.

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