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7 new driving laws that every van driver needs to know about for 2019

5-minute read

Sam Bromley

19 February 2019

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Driving laws are constantly being changed and updated. Here are some new and upcoming rules and regulations that van drivers should know about in 2019.

With the rules of the road often changing to improve safety, it’s important to know what’s changed already – as well as what might be updated in the future.

Some regulations can lead to fines for not following them. Here are seven you might not be aware of.

1. New MOT rules

New MOT rules introduced last year are set to affect drivers in 2019.

It’s worth brushing up on them, especially if your vehicle was tested before May 2018 – when the regulation came into force.

Essentially, tougher new categories change the way vehicles are classified after a test. If your vehicle fails its MOT, it could be deemed ‘dangerous’ and you won’t be able to drive it until it’s been repaired.

There are also new items checked during the test, including ‘obviously underinflated’ tyres and contaminated brake fluid. Your MOT centre should be able to explain more.

2. Further MOT changes

Auto Express have reported that the Driver and Vehicle Safety Agency (DVSA) wants to work with the Department of Transport to adjust the MOT system, so it covers outstanding safety recalls.

Currently 2.39 million UK cars are subject to an outstanding safety recall. The DVSA wants to align the MOT system with the outstanding recall system, with the AA’s Edmund King suggesting MOTs could “flag up” recalls that haven’t been acted on. The vehicle would then get an advisory classification.

The practicalities still need to be worked out, so don’t expect to see this introduced in 2019 – although be sure to look out for further news as it develops.

3. Updates to the Highway Code

In October 2018 the government announced a review of the Highway Code intended to “empower cyclists and pedestrians” and keep them safe on the roads.

The government say the Highway Code “will highlight how to avoid the dangers of close passing, and encourage people to adopt the ‘Dutch reach’, a method of opening a car door with the hand furthest from the handle, to force drivers to look over their shoulder for passing traffic.”

Cycling Minister Jesse Norman had already announced a crackdown on ‘close passing’ in June 2018, alongside additional resources for police across the UK.

West Midlands Police say they were the first force to proactively target and prosecute drivers who don’t leave enough room to pass safely – commonly regarded as 1.5 metres.

The Highway Code currently says that when overtaking you should give “motorcyclists, cyclists and horse riders at least as much room as you would when overtaking a car.” Industry magazine BikeBiz speculates that this section could be “beefed up” following the review.

4. New fines for ignoring smart motorway closures

Sky News report that an all-party parliamentary group are leading a review into smart motorways, considering whether they’re more dangerous than normal motorways.

Smart motorways are designed to ease congestion and traffic flow. They’re automated motorways that operate variable speed limits and can open and close the hard shoulder in busy periods.

When a lane is closed a large red X appears in the gantry signs, but Highways England have found that as many as one in five drivers ignore (or don’t notice) the closure.

This poses a danger to broken-down vehicles and vehicle recovery workers – along with the fact that stranded vehicles have nowhere to pull over safely when the hard shoulder is being used as a live lane.

The government was expected to announce an automatic £100 fixed penalty for driving in a closed lane last year, but the Express reports that Highways England are still waiting for approval to upgrade cameras to detect drivers and issue fines. Keep an eye out for more on this in 2019.

5. Learner drivers can use the motorway

2019 will be the first full year learner drivers can use the motorway when taking driving lessons in England, Scotland and Wales.

In June 2018, rule 253 of the Highway Code was updated to allow learner drivers to drive on the motorway when accompanied by a driving instructor in a car with dual controls.

The government said the move is to “help to make sure more drivers know how to use motorways safely.”

When they made the announcement, the government issued advice to drivers who encounter learners on the motorway:

  • as with any vehicle on the motorway, keep a safe distance from a learner driver in front of you. Increase the gap on wet or icy roads, or in fog
  • you should always be patient with learner drivers. They may not be so skilful at anticipating and responding to events

6. The graduated driving licence (GDL)

Although learner drivers can now use motorways, campaigners are calling for restrictions for novice drivers in the form of a graduated driving licence. It’s claimed this will reduce young driver casualties and protect road users.

Road safety charity Brake say that beginner drivers should hold a novice licence for two years after they pass their test, which would impose some restrictions on their use of the roads.

Brake say these should include a curfew on driving between 11pm and 6am, a ban on driving on motorways, and a ban on carrying passengers under 25 unless supervised.

And in 2018, the Prime Minister asked the Department of Transport to investigate the possibility of introducing a graduated driving licence in the UK.

Novice drivers in Northern Ireland already have some restrictions after passing their test, including a speed limit of 45 mph and a requirement to carry ‘R’ plates (the equivalent of 'P' plates).

The RAC reports that Northern Ireland will go further in 2019/20 and introduce a graduated driving licence that acts as a pilot for the rest of the UK. If successful, they expect it to be introduced across the country.

7. ‘Yellow vulture’ speed cameras

Reports have been circulating this year about so-called ‘yellow vulture’ speed cameras appearing in the South West. The Express say that these cameras are very high-tech and can pick up a number of offences automatically, including mobile phone use and not wearing a seatbelt.

But Wales Online did some digging and got in touch with Plymouth Council, who said that existing cameras had simply been ‘recalibrated’ and don’t have any capabilities beyond detecting speed.

Still, while cameras are triggered by speed, it’s worth noting that police are likely to take action if the image clearly shows another offence – such as mobile phone use.

As GoSafe, the Welsh road casualty reduction partnership, tells Wales Online: "Our advice is simple: safe and legal road use should be something that happens all the time, not just where you believe a camera may be.”

Have you heard about any other driving laws due to be introduced? Let us know in the comments below.

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