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New year, new rules: 8 changes to driving law to be aware of

The turn of the year has brought several changes to driving law, as well as updates to how the UK will progress towards a low-emission future. Due to other major news headlines over the winter, these new driving regulations might have flown under the radar, but there’s no time like the present to brush up on the updates – particularly the major addition to the Highway Code.

So what are the changes drivers need to be aware of when getting behind the wheel in 2022?

1. Check the code

Perhaps the most important change to be aware of is an amendment to the Highway Code’s hierarchy of road users. Known as Rule H1, the update puts the onus on those who can do the greatest harm to others to have a higher level of responsibility.

Due to come in effect from 29th January, the revised hierarchy is as follows:

  • Pedestrians
  • Cyclists
  • Horse riders
  • Motorcyclists
  • Cars/taxis
  • Vans/minibuses
  • Large passenger vehicles/heavy goods vehicles.

There will also be clearer Highway Code guidance for drivers to leave a minimum distance of 1.5 metres when overtaking cyclists.

2. (Don’t) hold the phone

The rise of the smartphone has seen increased dangerous usage behind the wheel – something that the law seeks to tackle in 2022. It's already illegal to call or text while driving, but new, stricter laws will ban drivers from using their phones to take photos or videos, scroll through playlists or play games – even at a red light. Anyone caught doing so will face a £200 fixed penalty notice and six points on their licence. It’s worth noting that ‘hands-free’ devices such as a sat nav are still permitted, if they are secured in a mount holder.

3. Getting enough zzz’s

Another Highway Code change to take note of is Rule 91, which now means drivers could be jailed or face unlimited fines if they don't get ‘sufficient sleep’. Not only that, but driver’s shouldn't take a break in emergency areas or motorway hard shoulders. Drivers who stop on the hard shoulder face a fine of up to £5,000, nine penalty points and a driving ban for careless driving if an accident occurs as a result.

4. Power to the council

Local authorities are gaining new powers, and from the start of the year, they are able to issue £70 fines against motorists for ‘moving traffic’ offences, such as stopping in yellow box junctions or performing bad manoeuvres. The police are typically responsible for such offence fines, but the new powers will mean almost 300 councils in England will be able to apply for the right to do. Look out for stricter rules on parking on the pavement, too – it’s already been outlawed in Scotland from 2023.

5. CAZ continue to grow

If you live near/commute to a city, it’s worth checking out the latest Clean Air Zone (CAZ) regulations, with more locations set to join to initiative in 2022. Greater Manchester will introduce its zone from 30th May, covering Bolton, Bury, Oldham, Rochdale, Salford, Stockport, Tameside, Trafford, Wigan, and – of course – Manchester itself. Bradford are also set to introduce a CAZ in 2022, but the date is still TBC. For the Birmingham zone, which is already in place, the daily charge for vehicles that do not meet standards is £8 for cars, vans and taxis, or £50 for HGVs and coaches.

6. New builds get electrified

As well as taking aim at emission-producing vehicles with the Clean Air Zones, the government has also announced that it will be compulsory for new builds to have built-in EV charging points – including commercial buildings. By committing to developing the UK’s charging infrastructure, the government hopes to encourage the uptake of electric vehicles ahead of the upcoming ban on new diesel and petrol cars in 2030 (hybrids will be banned from 2035).

7. No limits on speed limiters

It’s not just new homes that are ringing the changes – it’s cars too. From 6th July, all new vehicles sold in Europe will now be fitted with a mandatory speed limiter (also known as Intelligent Speed Assistance (ISA)) to keep cars within the UK speed limits and boost road safety.

8. Taxing times

Last but not lease, road tax is set to rise in line with the retail prices index measure of inflation in April. However, the new rates have yet to be confirmed.

If you have a question about any of the above changes – including using voice control on your smart phone, charging an electric vehicle at home, which vehicles meet CAZ requirements or how to use your speed limiter, feel free to pop into your local Johnsons today!