How well do you know your Highway Code? – January 2019

Following the introduction of learner drivers onto our motorways in June last year, we will see several new laws coming into force this year, which every driver should be aware of which impact both driving and MOTs. It is important to remember that it is the responsibility of drivers to keep up to date with changes to the Highway Code and the law, and an easy way to do that is to check the Highway Code website. For a small fee (£5) you can even download a Highway Code app to your phone! So you can always be on top of all changes. Having taken my test over 30 years ago, I am ashamed to say that only recently brushed up on the Highway Code when my own son was learning to drive and sitting his Theory test. Probably the first time I’ve read it since passing my test!

However with over 48 million drivers on our UK roads, these new law will affect everyone from the most experienced drivers, to the newly passed and also the learner driver. So being aware is crucial.

Motoring offences have the potential to carry large fines so it’s advisable for all drivers to familiarise themselves in advance to ensure you don’t get caught out.

For those of us who represent people injured in road traffic accidents, these new laws may lead to more instances of insurance policies being voided. So again, it’s wise to be aware of them.

Coupled with the impact a no deal Brexit will have on UK motorists driving in Europe, there is a lot happening this year for UK motorists, driving both at home and abroad.

Learner drivers on motorways

Traditionally learner drivers were not taught to drive on motorways, with most people learning how to navigate them after passing their tests either by themselves or as part of extra lessons with an instructor. This is due to change in 2019 when learner drivers will be given the option to drive on the motorway as part of their lessons when accompanied by an instructor with dual controls in the car. Learning to drive on the motorway won’t, however, be compulsory.

Overtaking cyclists

As a keen cyclist who cycles into work most days, this new requirement is one that pleases me greatly, and sees us coming into line with other countries. The Highway Code states that cars wishing to overtake a cyclist should leave as much distance as they would when overtaking a car (1.5 metres). Failure to abide to this rule has not previously carried a punishment but, as of March 2019, the failure to leave this distance could result in a £100 fine and three points on your driving licence.

The Government recognises the environmental and social benefits of increasing the number of cyclists on the road, and this is part of a wider initiative aimed to get more people out on their bikes. Police authorities across the country are being encouraged to penalise motorists who do not adhere to this Highway Code.

Tax increase for diesel cars

Also linked with environmental considerations are changes to road tax prices for diesel cars. This year owners of diesel cars may see their road tax prices increase. Instead of being fixed at £140, road tax will be calculated based on the vehicle’s carbon dioxide emissions. For cars which emit 191 – 225g of carbon dioxide the road tax could be increased by up to £500.

Restrictions for newly qualified drivers

New drivers who have held their licence for less than two years currently face higher penalties than more experienced drivers for offences such as using a phone at the wheel. However, more restrictions could also be placed on new drivers and the Government is trialing a pilot scheme of graduated licences in Northern Ireland between 2019 and 2020. If successful, the scheme could be rolled out to the rest of UK. The RAC believes that the further restrictions could include:

  • P plates being mandatory for up to two years after passing their driving test
  • a restriction on the engine size of their car
  • lower alcohol limits
  • lower speed limits than other drivers
  • a limit on the number of passengers they can carry
  • a curfew.

These restrictions are supported by many in the road safety community, including Brake, the national Road safety charity. #LforLater

MOT rules

The categorisation of defects on cars will change to the following:

  • Pass – meets the legal standards
  • Advisory – could cause an effect in the future
  • Minor – should be repaired as soon as possible but does not have an effect on safety
  • Major – Fails MOT as it effects safety or the environment
  • Dangerous – Fails MOT as it has a direct risk to road safety or the environment

Additional requirements and checks carried out in the MOT test will now also include :-

  • contaminated brake fluid
  • low tyre pressure
  • missing brake pads or discs and brake pad warning lights
  • daytime running lights (vehicles produced post March 2018)
  • reversing lights (vehicles produced after September 2009)

There was some consideration given by the Government to extending the current age of vehicle requiring an MOT from 3 to 4 years, but was abandoned due to safety concerns. This may be looked at again though in the future.

Fines for the incorrect use of smart motorways

Smart motorways display a red ‘X’ above lanes which are closed due to an accident or blockage. Motorists who ignore these signs and continue to drive in these lanes could be subject to a fine of £100 and 3 points however this is something that the government are still considering. The use of cameras to monitor and police such behaviours is being considered.

Last year was a busy year for motorists and 2019 looks to be no different. Brexit, driverless cars, electric cars, and these new laws all make for another hectic year on our very busy roads.

How well do you know your Highway Code? - January 2019How well do you know your Highway Code? - January 2019Kate Sweeney, author of How well do you know your Highway Code? is a Partner and Head of Personal Injury for Stephensons Solicitors LLP, Leigh. Kate is MASS Regional Co-ordinator for the Manchester area.

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