2017 has already been a year of big changes to UK driving laws. New, tougher penalties are being introduced by the government in an attempt to keep all motorists, cyclists and pedestrians as safe as possible.
A recent survey conducted by Warranty Direct revealed one in four Brits endanger themselves and others on motorways due to a worrying lack of awareness of current UK driving laws. To make sure you are up to date with the new laws, we have summarised some of the biggest changes happening below and included all the information consumers need to ensure they are not caught out by updated motoring legislation.
A tougher stance on mobile phones at the wheel
Studies by the Transport Research Laboratory showed driving while texting affected reaction times by around 35 percent*. The government has already banned the use of mobile phones behind the wheel, but some motorists continue to use phones in a dangerous manner when driving.
In the past, if you were caught using a mobile at the wheel, you could expect three points on your licence and a £100 fine. From 1st March 2017, new laws were introduced to see those penalties doubled. Being caught using your phone in any capacity while driving will now leave you with six points on your licence and a fine of £200.
Beware new drivers – under the new law, being caught using a mobile just once could mean having to sit your driving test all over again!
Late for work? Think twice before speeding
On April 24 this year, a strict new set of rules came into force, splitting speeding penalties into ‘bands’ which could see fines for those caught dramatically increase. For simplicity, these brands have been dubbed A, B and C.
The Band A speeding fine category would be appropriate if you are caught speeding between 31-40 in a 30mph zone, and you can expect to receive a fine equivalent to 50% of your weekly income and 3 penalty points on your driving licence.
For those doing between 41-50mph in 30mph zone, the Band B category speeding fine means facing a fine equivalent to 100% of your weekly income, and 4 penalty points on your driving licence, or disqualification from driving for up to 28 days.
The Band C speeding fine category comes into place to anyone speeding at 51mph or above in a 30mph limit (for example) and they face a fine equivalent to 150% of their weekly income and 6 penalty points on their driving licence. They could also face disqualification from driving for up to 56 days.
By way of comparison, the average speeding fine handed out in 2015 was just £188**.
Taking it easy with the speed on the road will not only help you to avoid costly fines. Reducing acceleration and harsh braking also means less wear and tear on your vehicle and this equates to less claims on your car warranty.
Taxing your car could be costly
A major issue going into 2017 is the growing level of pollution in the country from our motors. London took just one week to break the annual air pollution limits in 2016***. To help tackle this growing problem, the government has introduced a further tax to help reduce emissions.
The old car taxing system allowed lower tax, or even exemption, if you had a low emissions car. From April 2017 unless you drive a 100 percent electric car, any new vehicles will be charged at a tiered first-year rate based on its CO2 emissions. This could mean even people looking for a small, fairly economical car could be paying significantly more on vehicle tax. For example: owning a Ford Fiesta 1.0T Ecoboost with CO2 emissions of 99g/km, originally meant a driver paid no Vehicle Excise Duty. However, you could now pay up to £120 in the first year and £140 annually thereafter^.
We’d recommend anyone thinking of purchasing a new car to ensure they research all the possible costs associated with purchasing their desired model. This will help buyers work out whether they can actually afford the vehicle they are considering and prevent any costly surprises!
Remember this only applies to new cars bought after April – if you already own a car, or will be buying one registered before April 2017, there will be no changes to how much you pay.
Big changes to the driving test in 2017
The practical driving test is on course to change this year with updates that will have a big impact on current learners.
According to the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency, the changes will include:
- Increasing the test’s ‘independent driving’ section from 10 to 20 minutes so examiners can judge your driving ability more accurately in real-world driving conditions.
- Asking you to follow a sat nav’s directions during the ‘independent driving’ section
- Replacing the ‘reverse around a corner’ and ‘turn in the road’ with manoeuvres such as driving into and reversing out of a parking bay to demonstrate more likely day-to-day driving scenarios
- Asking one of the two vehicle safety questions while you are driving so your multi-tasking skills can be judged.
- Allowing learners on to motorways
- A proposed 120 hours of practical driving may need to be undertaken before a test can be taken.
It’s important for all drivers to make sure they are prepared for the changes in driving legislation. Not only will this help you to avoid hefty fines, but you will also protect yourself from potential accidents and paying for unnecessary damage to your car.
* – Lincolnshire Live
** – Saga
*** – The Guardian
^ – BBC News