Last year there were a number of new driving laws, rule changes, fines and punishments that were introduced. This includes, but is not limited to, the following:
- Increased penalty for driving whilst using a mobile phone (including the use of the Sat- Nav function);
- Revised child car seat rules requiring them to be suitable and appropriately fitted;
- Increase in fines for severe speeding offences;
- Changes to car tax, which introduced higher first year one of payments and standardised second year fees;
- New T-Charge applicable to motorists whose cars don’t meet the present emissions standard when travelling in the Congestion Charge Zone in London;
- 'Dangerous drivers’ who cause death while driving now face life in prison in an attempt to cut road tragedies. Those caught speeding, using a mobile phone or drink and drugs while driving all face a life sentence if they cause a fatality; and
- EU speeding law under the New Brussels rule – member states have been given powers to track down UK motorists and impose fines, if an offence is made.
With the new year comes further changes impacting motorists and mechanics, some of which have already come into force, a few due to be implemented or those simply proposed at this stage. The respective changes are set out in further detail below, and have bearing to those seeking to obtain a full driving licence, the vehicles to be used by motorists and how those flouting the rules will be caught and punished.
Industry insiders also believe this year may mark a major turning point for the electric car industry with a host of new models from some of the world’s largest manufactures set to appear.
New MOT rules:
From May 2018 there are changes pertaining to the MOT testing of vehicles, which introduce new failure categories and tougher compliance for diesel cars. The test will categorise defects and faults, which are graded on how severe the matter is. The new system will use three categories with only one deemed a ‘pass’. Vehicles given a ‘dangerous’ or ‘major’ rating will automatically fail, but one that has a minor fault may still be able to pass. However, such minor faults will be specified on the MOT certificate alongside the advisory notices.
1. A steering box which leaks oil is likely to be deemed a ‘minor’ fault, but if the oil is leaking so badly that it is dripping, that would ‘upgrade’ the issue to a ‘major’ fault.
2. If the steering wheel has become loose, as to be “likely to become detached”, then this would constitute a ‘dangerous’ fault. Dangerous faults include faults that would not make the car safe to drive away from the garage. This includes checks to whether brake discs are clearly warn, oil contamination of the discs and how well they are securely attached to the wheel hubs.
Neil Barlow, head of MOT policy at the DVSA said:
"The new categorisation should help motorists do the right thing, I.e. not drive away from the garage, and get the fault fixed. So we’ve put a much more robust set of wording around that."
The test will also make it harder for diesel cars to pass the test as part of the crackdown on cars producing ‘dirty’ and toxic emissions. Diesel particulate filters (DPF) will now be rigorously checked and if it is found to have been removed or tampered with the car will fail. In addition to this the smoke limit test will also become stricter, thus a vehicle fitted with a DPF emits visible smoke of any colour then the car will be issued a major fault.
Drivers can be fined they are found to be driving without a valid MOT certificate. To combat the amount of cars that don’t have a valid certificate on the road the agency launched a free notification service. The service is free and simple to apply for online and was developed after feedback from drivers.
Research revealed that around three-quarters of the motorists who were late for their MOT had actually forgotten the date.
A tax increase for diesel cars:
The April 2017 changes saw car tax increases across the board in the first year for many motorists. However, in the autumn 2017 Budget it was announced that car tax for certain diesel drivers would be increasing across the UK in an attempt to reduce air pollution. As a result, diesel car drivers in the UK are now just a few months away from the newly revised car tax rates. From April 2018, new Vehicle Excise Duty rules will come into place which will alter how much such motorists are required to pay. To confirm, the changes focus solely focus on diesel cars and will see the majority of diesel car owners paying more tax, such increases ranging from £20 to £500.
Fortunately for existing cars on the road, the inflated charges will not be applied to them but for those buying a new car need to be wary of those that will be hit the hardest. There is a tax increase for newly registered diesel cars which do not meet the latest emissions standards. Diesel cars which do not meet the latest standards will attract extra vehicle tax, and go up by one emissions band in the first year. However, the reality seems that many new vehicles presently will not achieve such standards since the Real Driving Emissions 2 standard does not become mandatory until 2020. While car manufacturers have two years to meet this standard, their current crop of new vehicles will not with many experts criticising the change as unfair.
The amount motorists pay in tax in their first year of ownership will depend on how much carbon dioxide the car emits. If the new diesel car is registered from 1 April 2018 onwards and is not a ‘next-generation clean diesel’ car (the lowest zero-emission band) then the car will be moved up to the highest emissions band for the purposes of calculating the tax to be paid for the first year.
Under the new rules, only electric cars under £40,000 will not have to pay car tax. Cars with a value of over £40,000 will have to pay an added £310 surcharge on top of the standard rate for five years.
These changes only apply to passenger cars and not vans or commercial vehicles.
Driving test changes
There have been changes to practical driving test, which are effective from 4 December 2017. The changes apply to England, Scotland and Wales (the driving test is different for Northern Ireland). The changes are designed to make sure new drivers have the skills they’ll need to help them through a lifetime of safe driving. The changes will only apply to car driving tests to begin with. The key changes are the following:
1. Independent driving part of the test will increase to 20 minutes (previously 10 minutes). During this part of the test, you have to drive without turn-by-turn directions from the driving examiner. Alternatively, the examiner will ask you to follow a Sat-Nav or rely on traffic signs.
2. Following directions from Sat-Nav. During the independent driving part of the test, most candidates will be asked to follow directions from a Sat-Nav. The examiner will provide the device (a TomTom Start 52) and set it up. It won’t matter if you go the wrong way unless you make a fault while doing it.
3. Previously, individuals were asked to demonstrate one of five manoeuvres. Under the new regime, the ‘reverse around a corner’ and ‘turn-in-the-road’ manoeuvre will no longer be tested. However, prospective motorists should still be taught them during driving lessons.
4. Answering a vehicle safety question while you’re driving. The ‘show me, tell me’ questions about car safety have changed slightly. The examiner will ask two vehicle safety questions. The ‘tell me’ question will still be asked at the start of the test, before driving. However, the ‘show me’ question (where you show how you’d carry out a safety task) will be asked during the course of the examination whilst driving. For example, putting on headlights or showing how to wash to the windscreen using the car controls.
Learner drivers allowed on motorways:
The law is set to change in 2018 allowing learner drivers to have lessons on motorways to help to make sure more drivers know how to use motorways safely.
Once the changes have been implemented later this year, learner drivers will be allowed on motorways before they pass their test provided they are accompanied by an improved instructor and in a car fitted with dual controls, meaning that both the student and instructor have their own brake and clutch pedals.
Any motorways lessons will be voluntary. It will be up to the driving instructor to decide when the learner driver is competent enough to have a motorway lesson. Trainee driving instructors won’t be allowed to take learner drivers on the motorway.
To confirm, motorway driving is not included in the driving test changes introduced on 4 December 2017 (see above).
Fine for misusing motorways:
Highways England is set to clamp down on drivers misusing so-called ‘smart motorways’, by issuing fines and penalty points to those who ignore overhead gantries.
You’ve probably seen smart motorways before, where the hard shoulder can run as a live lane during busy times to ease congestion. However, it’s sometimes still necessary to close the hard shoulder to traffic, in the event of an accident for example.
Closed lanes are marked by large red X symbols in overhead gantries, but it seems plenty of motorists choose to ignore these warning symbols. Highways England has sent over 50,000 warning letters to drivers in recent years, a third of whom refused to abide by lane closures.
To combat this, officials are set to introduce a series of £100 fines and licence penalty points to drivers who flout the rules on smart motorways. The Department for Transport will reveal full details of the fines and penalty points involved soon, before their introduction said to be later in 2018.
New drivers face curfews, speed limit restrictions and strict new rules in 2018:
New drivers could face a number of changes and restrictions to their driving licence in 2018 under a new ‘graduated driving licence’, which is being proposed to make it safer for young people on the roads.
The changes, which would are proposed apply to 17 to 24-year-olds, suggest drivers would be restricted from driving at night time and carrying passengers under 25 years of age unless supervised. There is also the suggestion that new drivers must learn to drive for at least a year before they are able to take their test. A probationary period has also been proposed which would mean that certain restrictions are imposed on new drivers for up to two years after they pass their practical test.
Police are using mobile speed cameras to catch drivers for non-speeding offences:
New figures released show that police are using speed cameras to catch drivers for offences such as not wearing a seatbelt or using a mobile phone whilst at the wheel. A freedom of information request to Norfolk Constabulary reveals that in Norfolk in 2016 37 drivers were detected by road safety cameras using a mobile phone, and the number in 2017 was 10.
A spokeswoman for Norfolk Constabulary said,
“appropriate action will be taken to address all offence if clear evidence is presented”