The rules of the roads are changing – some of which already came into force at the start of the year.
Affecting millions of motorists across the UK, the latest changes have been introduced as an action plan to make the roads a safer place for all.
However, keeping up to speed on the latest laws, rules and restrictions can be a challenge. We’ve compiled a list of what’s new, so you can keep yourself and others safe, and avoid getting slammed by hefty fines and penalties.
Here are eight major changes to watch out for in 2022 and beyond.
1. The Highway Code changes
The Highway Code has been updated in a bid to protect those who are vulnerable and clarify who has priority on the roads.
As of 29th January 2022, road users can expect the following:
A new ‘hierarchy of road users’
The hierarchy of road users has been introduced, with rankings based on those most at risk during a collision. Pedestrians are listed as the most vulnerable, and the new laws below put greater responsibility on drivers to protect others.
- Horse riders
- Large passenger vehicles/heavy good vehicles/lorries
Clarified priority rules for cyclists and pedestrians
It is now the responsibility of the vehicle driver to be aware of pedestrians, horse riders or cyclists. Drivers must give priority to cyclists travelling straight ahead at junctions, rather than turning in and out or changing the lane.
New guidance on safe passing distances
Motorists should give cyclists and horse riders on the road as much room as a car (1.5m for cyclists and 2m for horse riders).
Drivers must reduce their speed to under 10mph when passing horses and 30mph when passing cyclists.
Drivers must also drop their speed and ensure there is at least a 2m berth when passing pedestrians, where there is no footpath.
For full information on what’s new in The Highway Code, visit the Gov.uk website here.
2. Local councils authorised to crack down on traffic offences
The police currently hold the power when it comes to dishing out motorist fines, however, councils have recently been authorised to also punish drivers up to £70 for minor offences such as driving in bus lanes, stopping in yellow box junctions, illegal turning or ignoring signage. These will often be enforced by traffic cameras.
3. No more flashing lights
Light flashing has been used for decades to communicate messages on the roads. However, under the new code, this is now against the law. The action is now only permitted to make other road users aware that you are there.
4. Tougher phone laws
For almost 20 years, calling or texting from your phone when driving has been an illegal offence, but there have been some loopholes surrounding the use of devices for other purposes.
From 25th March 2022, drivers will be forbidden to touch their phones for any reason, including taking photos and videos, playing games or scrolling through playlists.
Drivers are now only permitted to use hands-free for navigation, ￼with the exception of paying via contactless at a drive-through. This also includes the use of smartwatches, tablets and laptops when driving.
Those caught rule-breaking will face a £200 fixed penalty notice and a whopping six penalty points on their licence.
5. Rising Vehicle Excise Duty (VED)
Often referred to as car or road tax, Vehicle Excise Duty is expected to soar as of April 2022.
The age and environmental impact of your vehicle will determine the amount of tax you’ll pay.
Electric vehicles and other zero-emission cars will still reap the benefits from £0 road tax though. Amongst other financial incentives, this might encourage an acceleration of cleaner vehicle purchases.
On the flip side, vehicles producing over 255g of CO2 emissions per km travelled will be charged an extortionate £2,245 per year.
Keep an eye on the Government website to stay up to date with price increases: www.gov.uk/vehicle-tax-rate-tables
6. Mandatory speed limiters from 6th July 2022
As of 6th July 2022 all new cars made in the EU and bought in the UK will be fitted with Intelligent Speed Assistance (ISA) black boxes.
Designed to boost safety on the roads, the speed limiters will use GPS to understand the speed limit and prevent the car from exceeding it.
The European Transport Safety Council (ETSC) — the body supporting the introduction of ISAs —says that the introduction of the limiters has the potential to reduce the number of collisions and save hundreds of lives every year.
The executive director of the ETSC, Antonio Avenoso, said: “It’s great to see Intelligent Speed Assistance finally coming to all new vehicles in the EU, this technology was first trialled over 20 years ago”.
7. Steer clear of pavements
Although illegal in London already, pavement parking is permitted elsewhere. As of 2023 however, Scotland will rule out the ability to park on pavements, with England and Wales likely to follow suit soon after.
Pavement parking has been prohibited in London since 1974. The rule was introduced to protect pedestrians from being forced to walk in the road and therefore compromising their safety due to oncoming traffic and trip hazards.
Whilst this is not implemented yet, it is something to watch out for in the near future if you want to avoid a pesky £70 fine.
Parking on pavements may however be permitted in certain streets or zones, although this will be determined by the area’s local authority.
8. Further Clean Air Zones to be introduced across the UK
Air quality in cities has been a key consideration for some time.
Cities with high levels of pollution have therefore introduced Clean Air Zones (CAZ), meaning drivers may now incur charges to enter certain areas. The schemes are designed to deter the number of vehicles entering the zones, whilst adding to the list of encouraging reasons for people to switch to greener vehicles.
More than 200 cities across 10 European countries are now operating these schemes, often referred to as Low Emission Zones.
In 2019, London was the first UK city to introduce an Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) scheme, charging drivers of highly polluting vehicles £12.50 per day.
Similar schemes have since been rolled out in more cities across the UK, and there are plans for more this year. It's important to note that the zones can vary, with some affecting coaches, taxis and PHVs and others including HGVs, vans and private cars. This will depend on the implementing Local Authority.
Use this ULEZ checker to understand whether this will impact your vehicle and area: Ultra Low Emission Zone - ULEZ
Stay up to date
Failure to follow the new rules of the road could not only result in frustrating fines and penalties but could also end up costing you your licence, whilst putting yourself and others at significant risk.
Now’s the time to break those habits and level up your driving — if you’re not squeaky clean already that is. Sharing this information with others will also help to create safer roads for all users.
Keep the highway code to hand — think of it as your driving bible — it’s available free of charge, so there are no excuses!
Don’t get left behind: remember to regularly review the highway code as things are always changing.