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Driving Law: Highway Code & Car Tax Changes 2019

The Highway Code and driving law is updated all the time, to reflect changes in standards and technology, and to make the roads safer for everyone.

As a driver, you have a responsibility to keep up to date with every change to UK driving law, no matter how small. After all, you don’t want to get pulled over and find you were breaking the law without even realising it! Because when it comes to driving law, ignorance is no excuse.

Driving Law Changes 2019 – Your Essential Guide

Among the changes, there are measures to improve cyclist safety, new penalties for misusing smart motorways, and some changes to car tax.

Highway Code Changes for Cyclist Safety

Cyclists have every right to use the road as anyone else, and drivers must look out for their safety just like they’d look out for motorcyclists, pedestrians, and other road users.

This shouldn’t need to be said. But for far too long, far too many drivers have treated cyclists as second-class road users.

In a bid to clampdown on aggressive, intimidating and thoughtless behaviour, the Highway Code now offers guidance on a minimum passing distance. To avoid dangerously-close overtaking, drivers are now advised to leave a 1.5 metre gap (4’ 11”) between the car and the cyclist. Think of it as the width of a car door.

Police have already started to target drivers who pass too closely by cyclists. It’s now classed as driving without due care and attention, and offenders can expect a hefty fine and up to nine points on their licence.

Car Tax Changes for 2019

For the third consecutive year, car tax rates are set to increase in 2019.

In the 2018 Autumn Budget, it was revealed that rates for Vehicle Excise Duty (VED) will once again increase in line with inflation. In practice, this means that your annual VED bill could increase by between £5 and £65.

New Guidance For Smart Motorway Etiquette

Smart motorways use a number of active traffic management (ATM) techniques to improve road safety and cut down on congestion. The Government’s website features a handy guide to driving on smart motorways. At the top of the list of quick tips is a warning to “never drive in a lane closed by a Red X.”

The Red X sign means that a lane is closed to traffic – usually because there’s an incident ahead, or people at work. The Red X will either be displayed on gantry signs above each lane, or on large signs above the left hand of the carriageway.

With this new system comes a new set of driving laws. In short, it’s illegal to drive in a lane closed by a Red X sign. If you’re caught, you can face a fixed penalty of up to £100 and three points on your licence. In more severe cases, you might get taken to court.

New Proposed Graduated Driving Licence

New drivers are considered high-risk drivers. This is because they’re inexperienced, and they’ve not yet had the chance to build up the instinct and the knowledge that established drivers rely on to keep themselves and other drivers safe on the road.

The proposed graduated driving licence would put certain restrictions on new drivers in an attempt to make the roads safer for everyone. It’s not yet clear just what form these restrictions would take, but the RAC has proposed the following:

  • Curfews – New drivers may be prevented from driving at certain times of day, most likely late at night and early in the morning.
  • Passengers – There could be limits to the number of passengers who are allowed in the car with a new driver at any one time.
  • Speed & Power – New drivers may have to abide by lower speed limits, and they may not be allowed to buy or drive cars with engines above a certain size.
  • P Plates – They’re currently optional, but new laws could make them mandatory.
  • Alcohol – It’s illegal for anyone to drink and drive, but new drivers may be subject to even lower limits of alcohol in the bloodstream than everyone else.

It’s not yet clear just how graduated driving licences would work – what form they’d take, how they’d be enforced, or even whether they’ll be introduced in the first place.

Experts believe that graduated driving licences could reduce the amount of accidents involving young motorists. And perhaps in the long-term they could even result in lower insurance premiums for young drivers and new drivers?

Read our guide to the risks associated with new drivers here, which includes some tips on how to get cheaper car insurance as a new driver.