Driving laws - the new rules all drivers should know

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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, or are set to be introduced in 2017, including tougher penalties for those who use their phones at the wheel.

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.

What happens if I get caught using my 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.

Under the new legislation, the penalties for anyone caught using their phone while driving have been doubled.

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.

Nick Lloyd, road safety manager for The Royal Society for the Prevention of Road Accidents (RoSPA), said they hoped the new stricter penalties will mean drivers think twice.

“Taking your theory and practical tests can be an expensive and stressful time, so imagine having to go through it again for one moment of stupidity.”

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

Using a sat nav while you drive

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.

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.

While it’s still okay to use your mobile phone as a sat nav, 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.

Speeding fines

Motorists caught speeding now face tougher penalties, which were brought into force from 24 April this year. 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 the new rules, it’s illegal to have your child’s car seat fitted incorrectly. While it’s now only children who weigh 22kg or more, or are 125cm tall who can use backless booster seats. Also, all children under 12 years old or less than 135cm are now required to travel in a car seat. However, once the child is older than 12 or reaches the height guidelines, then they will be allowed to travel in regular adult car seats.

Car tax rates – what’s changed?

Drivers buying and registering cars after 1 April 2017 will now pay the new tax rates. New cars will still be divided into 13 different Co2 bands, which will determine how much you pay in the first year of ownership, but only zero-emissions vehicles, such as electric cars, will qualify for the lowest band and therefore be tax-free.

From the second year onwards, zero-emissions vehicles costing less than £40,000 from new remain tax-free, while a flat rate of £140 a year will be payable for petrol and diesel cars that cost less than £40,000, and £130 for hybrids. All cars costing more than £40,000 will be subject to an additional premium fee for years two to six of ownership, regardless of their emissions.

This mean that electric cars costing more than £40,000 which used to qualify for free car tax every year, are no longer the tax-busting option they used to be.

Changes to the driving test

From 4 December 2017, any learner drivers wanting to pass their driving test will have to prove they can safely and legally use sat-navs.

Other changes announced by the DVSA include doubling the length of the independent driving portion of the test to 20 minutes, and replacing manoeuvres such as reversing around a corner with more common scenarios like driving into a parking bay.

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