New driving laws in 2019: what you need to know

​​​​​​​From changes to the law in the UK to new requirements when driving in Europe after Brexit, a number of driving laws have changed, or are due to change, in 2019.


We’ve highlighted what you need to know in this article.

Driving permits and Green Cards

If there’s a no-deal Brexit, you’ll need an International Driving Permit (IDP) to drive in some EU and European Economic Area (EEA) countries.

Currently, according to Government guidance, your Great Britain or Northern Ireland driving licence is valid in all EU or EEA countries and Switzerland, for stays of up to 12 months.

You can get an IDP for £5.50 over the counter at the Post Office if you:

  • are 18 or older
  • have a full UK driving licence
  • live in Great Britain or Northern Ireland

You’ll also need to carry a Green Card when driving in certain European countries, as proof that you have the minimum level of cover required in the country you’re driving in. Find out more in our Green Cards FAQs.

VED changes (road tax)

In April 2019, Vehicle Excise Duty (VED) increased in line with inflation via the Retail Price Index (RPI).

The amount you pay varies based on when the car was first registered:

  • Cars more than 40 years old are exempt
  • Before 1 March 2001: taxed on engine size
  • Between 1 March 2001 and 1 April 2017: taxed on the car's official CO2 emissions
  • On or after 1 April 2017: just the first year rate is based on CO2

The current VED rules are:

  • The first year rate is based on official CO2 figures
  • If new diesel cars don't meet the latest emissions standards (RDE2), the first year rate is charged one band higher than indicated by official CO2 figures
  • After the first year, the standard rate for all cars is £145 (except those with zero CO2 emissions, for which the standard rate is £0)
  • Cars with a list price over £40,000 have an extra charge of £320 a year for the first five years

Ultra Low Emission Zone

Also in April 2019, a new Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) came into force in London.

It operates year-round to reduce emissions and improve air quality, and drivers of cars that don’t meet ULEZ standards are required to pay a daily charge of:

  • £12.50 for most vehicle types, including cars, motorcycles and vans up to and including 3.5 tonnes
  • £100 for heavier vehicles, including lorries over 3.5 tonnes and buses/coaches over five tonnes

Intelligent Speed Assistance (ISA)

On 16 April this year, the European Parliament approved the fitting of ISA systems in new cars sold from 2022. It’s part of the EU’s revised General Safety Regulation, which aims to make roads safer and lessen collisions. The decision came three weeks after the parliament provisionally approved the systems and other safety features.

Warnings for drowsy or distracted drivers, advanced emergency braking, lane keeping assistance and incident reporting data recorders are other measures that will soon be mandatory.

Newly qualified drivers

Earlier this year, the Government introduced its road safety action plan, revealing it’s considering restrictions for recently qualified drivers, including the possibility of introducing a graduated driving licence.

According to the RAC, restrictions on new drivers are expected to include:

  1. Driving curfews
  2. Limits on the number of passengers a new driver can have
  3. Lower speed limits
  4. Engine sizes limits
  5. Mandatory P plates
  6. Lower blood alcohol limits

This would be on top of the more serious penalties currently imposed on new drivers for offences such as using a mobile phone at the wheel.

Drivers and cyclists

Changes to the law in March mean motorists face a £100 fine and three points on their licence if they don’t leave enough space between their vehicle and a cyclist.

The Government will be reviewing the Highway Code to make sure drivers have enough clarity around how they should treat cyclists and pedestrians.

Drivers may be encouraged to use the ‘Dutch reach’, which means using their left hand, when opening the car door. This forces people to look over their shoulder, making them more likely to notice approaching cyclists.

Drivers will also be required to give way to cyclists and pedestrians when turning left.