Evolving road laws

Blog post posted on 13/06/22 |

Road law continues to evolve, and this year we’re seeing some significant changes that will affect millions of Brits. Let’s look at the recent and imminent changes and how they could affect us.

The new Highway Code

The most significant changes to the Highway Code for many years established the Hierarchy of Road Users – a new system of priority designed to protect the most vulnerable road users.

IAM RoadSmart released a series of posters on the new Code, and the Hierarchy of Road Users, which you can download and print for free from our Driving Safety Posters page.

Strengthened mobile phone laws

Loopholes were closed, and existing laws strengthened around mobile phone use at the wheel. With mobile phone use often found to be as bad or worse than drink-driving in its capacity to cause collisions, clamping down on mobile phone use was seen as a welcome change by many.

Plug-in car grant reduced

New owners of electric vehicles will be getting less help from the government, with a reduction in the grant designed to help drivers purchase more ecologically friendly vehicles.

The plug-in car grant was reduced from £2,500 to £1,500 in December 2021, and only cars under £32,000 are eligible. Plug-in hybrids are also no longer covered. The £1,500 discount is applied automatically at the dealer, who will then have the money reimbursed.

Drivers to be legally allowed to watch television behind the wheel of self-driving cars

An initial step that will only become practical when self-driving cars themselves are legal, the decision to allow drivers to watch TV while at the wheel of self-driving cars indicates an eagerness by the UK Government to welcome self-driving tech to UK roads.

All new homes will be legally required to have EV chargers

In a bid to tackle the growing issue that electric vehicle (EV) sales are outstripping growth of charging infrastructure, all newly built houses will now be required to be fitted with EV chargers.

Any new homes, new supermarkets or buildings undergoing major renovations will need to have EV chargers fitted. Prime Minister Boris Johnson said this scheme could mean an additional 145,000 chargers per year across the country.

5 year pause on smart motorways

There has been fierce backlash against smart motorways, and now the rollout has been paused, pending 5 years’ worth of safety data. The decision was made after a government enquiry.

Smart motorways monitor traffic flow and vary the speed limit and number of live lanes in response to this monitoring, in order to reduce traffic. They also have no hard shoulder for drivers to pull onto in the event of a breakdown, closing live lanes when an emergency makes it necessary. This is where the safety concerns come from, as drivers could be stranded in a live lane.

Local councils given authority to enforce traffic laws

Local councils can now apply for permission to issue tickets for minor traffic offences, a power that was previously only held by the police.

Councils can now hand out tickets for stopping in a yellow box junction, driving in bus/cycle lanes, making illegal turns or disobeying a no-entry sign, amongst other things.

These laws will mainly be enforced using traffic cameras, with a maximum fine of £70 being issued. Local councils will have to apply for permission from the government to enforce traffic laws.

Speed limiting tech mandatory in all new cars

All new cars sold in Europe after 2022 will be legally required to be fitted with a speed limiter to boost road safety.

A speed limiter is a device that will stop your car from exceeding a certain speed set by the driver. This can be handy for making sure you don’t inadvertently break the speed limit.

All cars in Europe will be sold with “intelligent speed assist”, which uses GPS data and cameras to read the speed limit and set the limiter accordingly. The European Transport Safety Council predicts this could reduce collisions by 30%.