The New Driving Laws Coming to the UK

The Highway Code, smart motorways, mobile phones, pavement parking, and more.

It's difficult to keep up with the changes that are made to the Highway Code, as it seems like they are constantly changing with little to no public announcements made on some of the key updates.

Driving laws and rules are put in place to keep all road users safe, from motorists to pedestrians and cyclists, so it's important everyone knows where they stand.

It's easy to be fooled too, with there being many rumours about what is and isn't a rule. We covered this last year, debunking whether or not some of the myths we hear are actual laws or not.

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The punishments that can be handed out when committing an offence can range from as minor as just a warning to imprisonment, depending on the severity.

In this article, we take a look at all of the new laws coming in 2022, and how they could impact you moving forward. It's important that you take notice and understand what these laws mean for you.

New Highway Code update

A recent change that was introduced at the end of January, this rule is designed to improve the safety of more vulnerable road users such as pedestrians, cyclists, and horse riders.

The specific rules introduced include: 

  • Giving cyclists priority at roundabouts regardless of the direction they are planning on going in.
  • Giving pedestrians priority to cross the road at junctions.
  • Increasing the distance you pass cyclists on the road and at a much-reduced speed.

The aim is to reduce accidents - both minor and fatal - and encourage more people to feel comfortable traveling on roads even if they aren't a motorist.

Mobile phone use

Previously, the rule on mobile phones was you could only be penalised for communicating with your phone (excluding hands-free). However, the new rule will include touching your phone in any circumstance.

It means that you could get in trouble for changing the song or scrolling through a playlist, as well as the obvious such as taking photos, videos, or playing games. If caught, you could receive six points on your license and a £200 fine.

Drivers can still use their mobile devices as a sat nav, providing that it's secured in a holder and not left loose on the passenger seat or on the dashboard.

Contactless payments are permitted at drive-thru's and tolls, though; guidance previously suggested that you could be penalised if caught doing that, but that is not true.

Local councils enforcing minor traffic offences

Local councils could now have the power to penalise motorists for minor traffic offences, rather than it being left up to the police to deliver such fines.

Councils in England and Wales will be able to apply to take charge of this in their local area and it could not only save the police a lot of time but reduce the number of people breaking the rules with more eyes and focus on it.

Parking on pavements

If you are caught parking on the pavement, local councils could punish you with a £70 fine. It's one of the most frustrating things to see as a pedestrian if you have to walk into the road to avoid a parked car on the pavement, and new rules could soon prevent this from happening.

Speed limiters

All new cars will be fitted with speed limiters this year. This system will alert drivers if they are driving above the speed limit and if ignored, will override you and reduce the speed.

However, you will be able to override the car in certain circumstances, such as overtaking.


Smart motorway delays

There has been a lot of controversy regarding the safety of smart motorways and the government has said there will be a five-year delay in rolling them out to have a full investigation into them.

There are many smart motorways across the UK already in operation, though, and the government is investing £900m to improve safety, providing more emergency areas for drivers to safely stop if necessary.

Drug use

If caught with drugs in your system while driving, new punishments could be brought in to take away offenders' driving licence and passport.

Autonomous cars

The government believes that we could have self-driving cars on our roads by spring this year. Automatic Lane Keeping Systems (ALKS) will automatically keep your car in its lane.

It doesn't mean drivers can switch off and not do anything, however, they should be prepared to regain control of the wheel at any moment.

ALK will detect where the lines on the road are, keeping you within them, as well as any movement ahead from other motorists, cyclists, or pedestrians.


Clean air zones (CAZ)

There will be new higher emissions zones in a few cities in the UK this year, with Manchester leading the way from the end of May. 

It will mean paying more in these locations if you wish to drive in them. However, they generally will apply to buses, HGVs, coaches, vans, and taxis.

It could cost up to £60 per day to enter these CAZ. Private cars and motorcycles should not be affected.

Electric car grant cut

Electric cars are expensive and from 2030, there will be a ban on buying new petrol and diesel cars, meaning that you will have no choice but to buy an EV if you wanted something brand new after that date.

Previously, there was a government grant of £2,500 on all EVs costing up to £35,000 to incentivise more people to buy them. But this has now been reduced to £1,000 and is only available on vehicles costing up to £32,000.

It's unclear why this grant has been slashed, but it will certainly put more people off going EV if they are unable to get as much grant money as they could have gotten previously.

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EV charging points

All new-build homes, new supermarkets, and other buildings having major renovations from this year will legally be required to have EV charging points installed.

Another reason why people are less inclined to buy EVs - aside from the price - is the accessibility to charging points, so this should make it much easier for people wishing to buy - and charge - their cars going forward.

Towing rule change

If you passed your driving test in or after January 1997, you will no longer need to take an additional test to tow a trailer up to 3,500kg.

This change could allow thousands more HGV driver tests to take place, after the driver shortage last year, with as many as 30,000 new drivers on the road.


What is the best-selling electric vehicle?

The best-selling electric vehicle is the Tesla Model Y.

Can you still use hands-free when driving in the UK?

Providing you do not hold or touch your device at any time, hands-free is permitted.