8 New Motoring Laws to Be Aware of this Year

A series of recent and upcoming changes to motoring legislation means that many drivers could be at risk of breaking the law by mistake. Over the last year and in the upcoming six months, a number of new laws affect many different aspects of driving, from licenses to alcohol and drugs to speeding.

The penalties for these transgressions vary in severity, from licenses points and fines to even jail-time. To make sure you avoid running afoul of the law accidentally and stay out of trouble, check out this rundown of the new legislation below.

Tax Discs are Obsolete – October 2014

Although this law has been in place for the best part of a year and was fairly well publicised, many drivers (and prospective car owners) still remain unaware of it. Instead of a paper tax disc glued to your windshield, all of your tax information will now be stored on a DVLA database.

Practically, this means that tax is no longer transferable with the sale of a car. Any car you have bought after October of last year or plan on buying in the future which advertises as being taxed is fraudulent – you must purchase your own. On the plus side, this can now be done on a monthly basis.

Lower Drink-Drive Limits in Scotland – December 2014

Another law that has been active for over six months but may have slipped under the radar of many living north of the border is the lowered drinking limit for Scottish drivers. Whereas before the legal limit was 80mg of alcohol for every 100ml of blood, that has been slashed to 50mg.

The Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill confirmed that the Scottish government had been in talks with Westminster over implementing the changes across the whole of the United Kingdom, but that the Coalition government then in place had declined the offer.

Make a Plea Online – March 2015

In a bid to save the time and expense of lengthy court cases over minor offences, motorists will now be able to challenge or admit to charges on the internet. Being able to plead guilty or not guilty online can help to avoid the bureaucracy and delay of postal correspondence or the time-consuming nature of court appearances.

The system is now in place across England and Wales after a successful trial in Manchester and allows defendants to specify a time and place of their choosing to appear before a magistrate, if necessary.

New Drug Laws – March 2015

Also in March, new laws were passed which concern eight illegal drugs and eight prescription ones, imposing new limits and harsher penalties. The 16 substances concerned are outlined in the table below:

Illegal Drugs Prescription Drugs
Benzoylecgonine (Cocaine) Clonazepam
Cocaine Diazepam
Delta-9-Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC/Cannabis) Flunitrazepam (Rohypnol)
Ketamine Lorazepam
Lysergic Acid Diethylamide (LSD) Methadone
Methylamphetamine (Speed) Morphine
Methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA) Oxazepam
6-Monoacetylmorphine (Heroin) Temazepam

Though many drivers will take one look at the left column and brush off the new legislation due to their sobriety, those on prescription drugs should be aware that a level which they feel comfortable with may fall foul of the new limits. As such, if you do take any of the substances in the right column, it’s important to consult your GP for advice.

Higher Speed Limits for HGVs – April 2015

All heavy goods vehicles (HGVs) and lorries are now able to travel at speeds of 50mph on single lane roads and 60mph on dual carriageways. Both limits have increased by 10pmh (from 40mph and 50mph, respectively) in an attempt to eliminate frustrating back-ups of the vehicles on dual carriageways and overtaking difficulties on smaller roads.

It should be noted, however, that EU legislation actually limits HGVs to 56mph on dual carriageways, not 60mph – a small but important distinction. Regardless, the changes should help to alleviate congestion and speed up our roadways.

No Paper Licenses – June 2015

Since the 8th June, the DVLA has eradicated the paper counterpart to your photocard license. This means that all new licenses will not be issued with an accompanying paper partner and the DVLA recommends all drivers who received their existing license after 1998 to destroy the paper part, since all of their information will be stored on another database.

However, this advice disregards the fact that some foreign countries require both parts of the license to hire a car and may be unaware of the new legislation for the foreseeable future. Since hanging on to the paper part does no harm, it might be more sensible to store it away for now.

Safer Lorry Scheme – September 1st 2015

Applicable only to London, this bill aims to minimise the casualties and deaths of cyclists on the capital’s busy roads. The Safer Lorry Scheme concerns all vehicles weighing more than 3.5 tonnes and requires them to:

  • Install Class V and Class VI mirrors, increasing visibility around the flanks and rear of the lorry.
  • Install side guards to prevent cyclists from being dragged under the wheels in case of an accident or collision.

Drivers of lorries which do not comply with the rules will be given a £50 Fixed Penalty Notice, with the potential for their fine to rise to as much as £1,000. Operator licenses could also be put in jeopardy for non-compliance.

No Smoking with Children – October 1st 2015

Studies show that around 3,000,000 children are exposed to second-hand smoke in the cars of Britain. In an attempt to countermand this appalling statistic, drivers will no longer be allowed to light up in any vehicle containing a person under the age of 18. Though the penalties have yet to be confirmed, they could range from expected fines of £60 to as much as £10,000 for those who fail to prevent smoking in the vicinity of young ones.

Though the ban will initially only affect England and Wales, Scotland are expected to follow suit in early 2016.

Stay Abreast and on the Right Side of the Law

Some of these changes have already taken place, some will come into effect in the next few months. Make sure you don’t become an accidental criminal – know your motoring obligations.

This entry was posted in Reports & Research on by Jonathan Sweet

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