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7 new driving laws every van driver needs to know about for 2020

5-minute read

Sam Bromley

8 January 2020

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Driving laws are constantly being changed and updated. Here are seven new and upcoming rules and regulations van drivers should know about in 2020.

The rules of the road are often altered to improve safety, so 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. Read up on these seven for 2020 (and beyond).

1. New low emission zones

Central London got its first Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) in April 2019. It covers the same area as the Congestion Charge. If your vehicle doesn’t meet the ULEZ emissions standards, you need to pay a daily £12.50 charge to drive in the zone. The zone will be extended to most of inner London in 2021 – and other cities are following suit with their own schemes.

Birmingham City Council expects its Clean Air Zone will start on 1 July 2020, with an £8 a day charge for vehicles not meeting the standards.

Leeds City Council was set to introduce its own Clean Air Charging Zone on 6 January 2020, but it’s been delayed indefinitely.

And according to a BBC report from April 2019, other cities like Sheffield and Greater Manchester are planning low emission charging zones that will affect van drivers.

2. New driving technology

Last year we reported that the EU will be introducing mandatory safety features from 2022, which new cars and vans will need to have as standard.

This includes intelligent speed assistance – the UK press has dubbed this ‘speed limiting’ technology.

This now seems closer to reality, as the Daily Mail reported in December 2019 that German engineering firm Bosch is developing an artificial intelligence ‘internal monitoring system’ for vehicles. Cameras built into the steering wheel and rear-view mirror will monitor drivers and passengers, alerting drivers or slowing down the vehicle if the driver is drowsy or distracted.

With technology moving at a rapid pace, expect to hear more about systems like this in 2020.

3. Updating the law on using your mobile phone

At the moment there’s a loophole in the law on using your mobile phone at the wheel. The legislation says you can’t use your mobile phone to call or text while driving. But these laws were first introduced in 2003, when Nokia still dominated the market. Times have changed and you can now do much more with your device.

Last year a man who filmed a crash on his mobile phone while driving won an appeal to overturn his conviction, as lawyers successfully argued he wasn’t using the device for communicating.

So from spring 2020 the revised legislation will include using a phone to “browse the internet, film, take photos, or scroll through playlists”, reports i News.

Using your mobile phone while driving has a fixed penalty of £200 and six points.

4. Your driving licence after Brexit

We’re currently due to leave the EU on 31 January, but the exact shape of the exit hasn’t been clarified. If there’s no deal and you need to drive abroad, you might need to apply for an international driving permit (IDP) depending on the country you’re driving in.

In some countries, like Belgium, you don’t need to have an IDP if you’re only visiting for a short period of time (185 days, in Belgium’s case).

But other countries will ask that you have an IDP. You’ll need one to drive in France, for example, and it’ll cost you £5.50 at the Post Office.

You’d also need a motor insurance green card from your vehicle insurance provider.

5. A blanket ban on pavement parking

It’s been illegal to park on the pavement in London since 1974. But last year The Sun reported that MPs are calling for a blanket ban across the country, as it makes it difficult for people to safely navigate the streets.

The transport committee said disabled, elderly and vulnerable people are particularly at risk of being affected by the practice.

The group said there should be a £70 fine for drivers parking on the pavement in England. But Lilian Greenwood MP, who chairs the transport committee, recognised it’s “a thorny problem that may be difficult to resolve to the satisfaction of all”.

For that reason, while we may hear more about these proposals in 2020, don’t expect the law to be changed anytime soon.

6. Do the ‘Dutch reach’

In 2018 Jesse Norman, who was Transport Minister at the time, announced a review of the Highway Code.

The review was announced as part of an effort to keep cyclists and pedestrians safe on the road, but there haven’t been any further updates.

The government said at the time: “The new 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.”

In November 2019, the Daily Mail reported that the British School of Motoring and AA Driving School are both adding the ‘Dutch reach’ into their lessons for new drivers.

They said you should expect to see the Highway Code itself updated in 2020.

7. Are graduated driving licences being introduced?

Campaigners have been calling for a graduated driving licence, which would place restrictions on novice drivers.

Road safety charity Brake says beginner drivers should hold a novice licence for two years after they pass their test. Brake says restrictions 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.

Following that the government announced in its road safety action plan last year that it would ‘further explore’ the graduated driving licence.

While graduated driving licences have already been introduced in countries like New Zealand and Sweden, the UK government is concerned the scheme could “adversely affect the ability of young people to get on in life – potentially restricting education and jobs.”

The government said more research would let them gather evidence to “fully understand” how a graduated driving licence might work. Expect to see this research (and a consultation) in 2020.

Finally – MOT and smart motorway rules

It’s also worth brushing up on rules that are already in place.

Firstly, tougher new categories change the way vehicles are classified after an MOT 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.

And finally, new smart motorway rules came in last year that could lead to an automatic £100 fine and three penalty points for drivers who ignore smart motorway lane closures.

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

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