New driving laws introduced under the Highway Code on January 29, 2022, represent some of the most significant changes most drivers will have seen for many years. The new laws and changes for UK drivers are designed to improve the safety of the most vulnerable road users and tackle climate change. Before your fleet drivers next get behind the wheel, here's a guide to ensure they avoid the risk of driving illegally and inadvertently getting a fine or unwanted penalty points.
1. Updated road hierarchy
On January 29, changes to the Highway Code driving laws to improve the safety of more vulnerable road users stressed that it's a driver's responsibility to be aware of cyclists, pedestrians, or horse riders. For example, when a vehicle turns into a road or exits a road, they should stop to let pedestrians cross. Vulnerable road users such as cyclists and pedestrians are most likely to get more severely injured in an accident.
The new order of the hierarchy listed below shows that vehicles often used by fleets such as vans and large heavy goods vehicles, have the greatest responsibility to vulnerable road users. Further details can be found here:
- Horse riders
- Large passenger vehicles/heavy goods vehicles
2. Tougher restrictions on mobile phone usage
It's already illegal to call or text while driving, other than in an emergency, but stricter laws will ban any driver using their phones to take photos or videos, scroll through playlists or play games. Anyone caught using a hand-held device while driving will face a £200 fixed penalty notice and six points on their licence. Drivers can still use 'hands-free' devices such as sat navs, as long as they are in a mounted holder.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said: "Too many deaths and injuries occur while mobile phones are being held. By making it easier to prosecute people illegally using their phone at the wheel, we are ensuring the law is brought into the 21st century while further protecting all road users."
However, there will be an exemption to the new law for drivers making a contactless payment using their mobile phone while stationary to ensure the law keeps pace with technology.
3. Road tax (Vehicle Excise Duty) increase
Road tax is set to rise in line with the retail price index measure of inflation in April, but the government has not confirmed the new rates. As before, the amount you pay will likely depend on your new car's CO2 emissions; the more CO2 a car emits per kilometre, the more you are likely to pay. Those that emit zero grams per kilometre of CO2 are expected to continue paying zero, while petrol- and most diesel-powered drivers (including hybrids) that emit between 1g and 50g per kilometre will pay £10 for the first 12 months. Cars that emit between 51g and 75g per kilometre currently pay £25 for the first year. Cars that emit between 76g and 150g per kilometre of CO2 saw their VED rates rise by £5 this year - to £220.
The rate (the amount you pay after the second year) for cars registered on or after April 1, 2017, is currently £155 a year for anything other than zero-emissions vehicles.
Cars that emit more than 255g per kilometre of CO2 currently pay £2,245 a year in tax, increasing each April.
4. Nurses could carry out DVLA checks
Due to an increase in medical licensing applications for drivers, a recent government consultation raised the proposal of allowing nurses to complete medical questionnaires to help accelerate licence renewals and ease the growing workload on doctors.
5. New £70 fines from councils
Local authorities could be given the authority to issue £70 fines as councils are given more power against motorists. Under 'moving traffic' offences, councils will punish drivers for stopping in yellow box junctions and performing poor manoeuvres. Currently, most councils can only send out penalties for parking and driving in bus lanes, but the new powers will mean almost 300 councils in England will be able to apply for the right to issue these penalties as well.
6. Parking on pavements ban
The government held a consultation on parking on pavements in November 2020 to propose a blanket ban to prevent motorists from blocking pavements for parents with pushchairs, those with limited mobility, and anyone reliant on a seeing-eye dog.
Scotland has already decided to make it illegal to park on pavements from 2023, and a date for the enforcement of these stricter rules in England is due this year. Parking on the pavement is already illegal in London, but changes to the law will give local councils across England and Wales the power to issue on-the-spot £70 fines to those who park on the kerb.
7. Red diesel and rebated biofuels to be illegal
The lawful use of red diesel and rebated biofuels will end from April 1, 2022. This will mainly affect commercial businesses who use it in off-road mobile machinery such as bulldozers and cranes or to power drills for oil extraction; however, it is also used in both private and commercial boating. The government hopes this change will promote more sustainable fuels as part of the UK's 2050 climate targets.
8. New homes will have compulsory built-in electric vehicle (EV) chargers
All new properties built in England from 2022, including housing and commercial buildings, will now have an EV charging point installed. The government hopes this measure will increase the number of electric vehicles on the road, ahead of the planned ban on selling new diesel and petrol cars in 2030.
9. Speed limiters in new cars
New car and vans will be fitted with speed limiters from July 6, 2022, to help improve road safety. Intelligent Speed Assistance (ISA) black boxes will use GPS to work out the speed limit and ensure the car remains safely within it. To make driving safer, EU legislation made ISA mandatory for all new vehicles starting in 2022, and all existing car lines by 2024. The European Transport Safety Council (ETSC) believes that limiters will reduce collisions by as much as 30% and could save approximately 25,000 lives within 15 years of being introduced.
10. Clean air zone charges
On October 25, 2021, London's Ultra-Low Emission Zone (ULEZ), expanded in size to include the North and South Circular ring roads, affecting more drivers with some of the most polluting vehicles. ULEZ currently charges drivers £12.50 a day on top of any congestion charge fees.
Next year, Greater Manchester and Bradford will introduce their Clean Air Zones.
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