What’s new for UK drivers in 2020?

The UK Driving Test was first introduced on British roads all the way back in 1935, and since then there have been several changes to the rules and regulations, largely driven by new technologies, increasing vehicle use and safety needs. Though passing this test is still the minimum legal requirement for UK drivers, the constant updates made to motoring mandates means that drivers must stay informed.

So, what changes do UK motorists need to look out for this year?

A potential rise in car tax

Most drivers have already seen their car tax increase by £5 annually, in line with 2019’s inflation. If you’re lucky, there will be no further rise – but if you are the owner of a high emission vehicle then expect to be charged up to an extra £15. Likewise, diesel car owners whose vehicles fail to meet the mandatory RDE2 emissions standard will continue to pay higher tax rates, while those who make a new car purchase could face an additional £65 in their first year of paying car tax.

More low emission areas

Another blow for drivers of high emission vehicles: London’s Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) will be extended to cover all of inner London by 2021, with other areas of the country expected to introduce their own restricted zones. A launch was expected in Leeds in January, although this has now been delayed with no set date for implementation, while Birmingham plans to introduce its own scheme in July this year. Bristol, Cambridge, Cardiff, Newcastle, Derby and Edinburgh are all also interested in introducing low emission zones, which mostly affect older diesel cars.

Stricter smart motorways

Smart motorways now cover more than 400 miles of England, with work already underway to create another 300 miles by 2025. However, the revelation that 38 people have been killed on smart motorways in the last five years led to increased calls for new safety standards. The government maintains that the UK’s motorways are some of the safest in the world, and although it will investigate further safety measures, development is not likely to be halted. The first change for UK motorists is likely to be a stronger penalty for driving in a lane closed by a red X sign. This already carries a fixed penalty of up to £100 points and three points.

Confusion on the continent

The Dover to Calais booze cruise may not be what it once was, but 2.6 million cars still made the journey via the Eurotunnel last year, with many more taking the ferry or driving hire cars once safely in mainland Europe. The reality is that we just don’t know how Brexit will affect these drivers yet, but in the event of a no deal Brexit, it’s likely that UK driving licences will be useless on the continent. After 31st December 2020, you will need an international permit, available for £5.50 from the post office, and a motor insurance green card, obtainable from your insurance provider.

Inspiration from the Dutch

The Dutch own more bicycles per capita than any other country in the world. Cycling is so popular as a method of transport that there are more bicycles than people – 22.5 million bicycles to a population of 17 million people. As a result, the Netherlands has developed a specific method to avoid colliding with cyclists, which involves using your far hand to open vehicle doors when inside the car. This technique is now so commonplace in the Netherlands that it is taught in schools, and has been part of Dutch culture for more than 50 years. The UK intends to include this in future driving lessons and encourage British drivers to use the Dutch reach method from this year onwards.

UK motorists must stay up to date with regulations in order to avoid driving on the wrong side of the law. If you are concerned about a pending driving conviction, get in touch with our expert solicitors for confidential advice.