New driving laws are often introduced to improve road safety. It’s important to know what’s changed already, as well as what might be updated in the future.
If you use a vehicle for work, here are seven new driving laws for 2021 – from updated rules to new schemes, like driverless technology and low emission zones.
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People who drive for business will be pleased that the government is aiming to make roads safer in 2021 by closing an outdated loophole.
Picking up and using a mobile phone for any reason while driving is dangerous. In most cases, you’ll get a £200 fine and six points on your licence if caught.
But the law doesn’t strictly stop people from using their phone when it isn’t connected. This means that using a phone behind the wheel for functions like taking photos and videos, searching for stored music, or playing games offline isn’t technically illegal.
This doesn’t reflect the leaps in handhold technology over the past 20 years, so the government has consulted on strengthening the law. The hope is that this will make it easier to punish dangerous drivers and enforce the rules.
The consultation closed in January, so expect to see the government response soon – with changes to the law in 2021 very likely. Read more.
When it comes to driving laws, successive lockdowns have left many people confused about when they can and can’t use their vehicle.
The key rule for business owners is that during lockdown, you can use your vehicle for travelling to and from work, if you can’t work from home.
You can also drive to shop for essentials, to attend medical appointments and emergencies, and to provide care, amongst other reasons – although the government recommends that you walk or cycle where possible.
Low emission zones will be introduced or expanded in 2021.
Transport for London (TfL) has announced that the city’s Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) will expand from 25 October 2021 “to create a single larger zone bounded by the North Circular Road (A406) and South Circular Road (A205)” (but those roads won’t be included in the zone).
You can check your vehicle against London’s emission zone standards here.
London is also introducing tougher emissions and safety standards for heavy vehicles, including lorries, from 1 March 2021.
Other cities are introducing Clean Air Zones, including Bath on 15 March 2021 and Birmingham on 1 June 2021. Check whether you’ll need to pay a charge in Clean Air Zones.
Bristol is introducing a Clean Air Zone, which needs to be in place by October. While the city wanted to avoid charging drivers to enter, the mayor has now said that motorists will need to pay.
Oxford is running a Zero Emission Zone pilot from August 2021. Under this scheme, only vehicles that are completely emissions-free would be able to use the zone free of charge.
Keep an eye on updates from your local authority about low emission zones.
Highways England has said that another 300 miles of ‘smart’ motorways will be introduced across England by 2025.
Smart motorways are motorways that can manage traffic congestion by opening and closing the hard shoulder and operating variable speed limits.
But smart motorway safety has been controversial – the Daily Express reports that 38 people have tragically died on smart motorways in five years.
Plus, 68 per cent of respondents to a 2019 RAC survey said that removing the hard shoulder compromises motorway safety.
Highways England has launched a website to promote safer driving on motorways, encouraging drivers to pay attention to the red X and variable speed limits and to know what to do in the event of a breakdown.
Smart motorways look set to be debated throughout 2021, so get up to speed with the rules to keep yourself and other drivers safe.
The government consulted on the use of Automated Lane Keeping Systems (ALKS) in 2020.
ALKS is essentially driverless technology – the government’s consultation document calls it “traffic jam chauffeur technology”. ALKS can control a vehicle at low speeds for an extended period of time without the driver intervening.
The UK government is keen to introduce ALKS, and has asked for a review of the legal framework around automated vehicles to be completed in 2021.
The RAC reports that the Transport Secretary, Grant Shapps, wants the UK to be the first country to implement the technology, and that cars using ALKS could be on the roads by the summer.
Keep in mind that there are new driving rules when visiting the EU.
This includes the need to carry a ‘green card’ from your motor insurance provider, to show that you’re covered for third party property damage and personal injury.
You need to take your vehicle logbook (V5C) for trips of less than 12 months and will need to display a GB identifier. Read more about driving in the EU.
The government introduced green number plates at the end of 2020, so expect to see these on more vehicles throughout 2021.
These number plates are designed to help identify electric vehicles, with the Transport Secretary, Grant Shapps, hoping that the plates will “increase awareness of cleaner vehicles on our roads”.
The plates have a green vertical stripe on the side. The idea is that local councils might be able to design policy around these number plates, with perks including unhindered access to clean air zones and cheaper parking.
However, the scheme has also raised privacy concerns, with Auto Express reporting that the UK’s network of automatic number plate recognition (ANPR) cameras could be used to monitor drivers using the new plates.
Have you heard about any other new driving laws for 2021? Let us know in the comments below.
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22 June 2020 • 9-minute read
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