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New driving laws in 2021: what you need to know

​​​​​​​From green licence plates to low emission zones and E10 fuel, here are the changes to driving law in 2021

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

Green licence plates

You’ll now be able to tell when a car gives off zero emissions because it’ll have a green stripe or marking down the side of their licence plate. This will allow them access to cheaper parking, or free access to low emission zones – like the ones you’ll find in London.

The reason for this is to make green and electric vehicles much more visible when they’re on the roads and offer more incentive for zero emission driving.

International travel and Brexit

When you take your own vehicle abroad to certain European countries, you’ll need to be sure that you take a Green Card with you. The Green Card proves your vehicle has the minimum level of insurance needed in the country you’re in and will be necessary if you are involved in an accident.

You’ll also need your driver’s licence and a GB sticker on your car. Unless your trip is longer than 12 months, you’ll also need to take your V5C logbook with you too – with your most up to date address on the logbook.

If it isn’t your car and is a hire or lease vehicle, then you’ll need a VE103 form too, as these forms prove that you had permission to take the vehicle outside of the UK.

You’ll need an International Driving Permit (IDP) to drive in certain countries, so it’s best to check that country’s driving rules before you depart – especially if you have a paper driving licence. You can apply for an IDP in person at the Post Office for £5.50.

Stricter penalties for mobile phone use

The law around mobile phone use while driving has changed to ban all forms of usage. This means you could now receive a £200 fine and six points on your licence for holding your phone while driving.

Alongside obvious usage like calling and texting, this now includes distractions like playing a game, taking a video, or scrolling through a playlist.

Petrol stations to start offering E10 fuel

A new type of fuel that uses 10% ethanol over the standard 5% (hence the name E10) is set to reach the pumps this year. This new type of fuel is set to reduce carbon emissions and to reduce the impact of driving on the environment. It’s estimated by the transport secretary that the reduction in emissions from using E10 is roughly equivalent to taking 350,000 cars off the road.

E10 shouldn’t be more than 1p per litre more expensive than standard petrol, and is fully compatible with all cars built after 2011.

End of the MOT extension period

Due to the Coronavirus lockdown, drivers of cars needing an MOT between 31 March and 31 July 2020 could postpone their test by up to six months. As 31 July was the latest you could request this extension, the period you could wait has now passed, and you’ll need to book your car for a test as soon as possible.

Don’t forget there’s still plenty you can do at home to look after your car, even during lockdown.

Automatic Lane Keeping Systems approved

The United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (ENECE) approved Automatic Lane Keeping Systems (ALKS) back in June 2020.

The ALKS is designed to keep cars in lane automatically when driving at lower speeds and  will allow the driver to give the system full control of the car.

Unless there are any issues in the safety evidence collected between August and October 2020, the system should be introduced in the spring.

Low Emission Zones to come into place

Several Low and Ultra Low Emission Zones are set to launch this year, having been delayed due to the pandemic last year.

These are zones typically set in parts of cities with high pollution levels and charge cars with high emissions to enter. Several cities are launching these new zones, with the rules and locations below:

Bath is introducing its Clean Air Zone (CAZ) in March 2021, with the original plan to launch last year. To enter Bath without a fee now, your car will need a Euro 6 diesel engine as a minimum, or a Euro 4 petrol engine.

Birmingham is introducing a Low Emissions Zone this year, with several specified rules. Cars with a Euro 6 diesel or Euro 4 petrol engine won’t be charged, and neither will mopeds, motorcycles and other low or non-emission vehicles.

Bristols CAZ is also set to begin in spring. The same rules as Bath apply if you don’t want to be charged for entering – a minimum Euro 6 diesel or a Euro 4 petrol engine is required.

London is extending its Ultra Low Emissions Zone from 25 October 2021, creating a larger zone within the A406 and A205. To not be charged in the ULEZ cars, vans and minibuses again must have a minimum Euro 6 engine if diesel or Euro 4 engine if petrol. Motorcycles and mopeds must be Euro 3, and lorries, buses and other heavy vehicles must be Euro VI.

Oxford is introducing a Zero Emissions Zone in summer 2021 also, where only vehicles with zero emissions will be able to drive.