Are you ready for the deluge of new motoring laws and regulation changes heading our way in 2018? Keep ahead of the pack and avoid scrapes with the cops by following our full guide to what’s coming to a highway near you soon…
Read on to beat the risk of accidental fines and unexpected charges by checking out our guide to motoring changes coming into force in 2018.
New motorway laws and changes – March
Driving in motorway lanes with a red X illuminated could land you with a fine of up £2,500. However, most drivers caught flouting the rules are likely to receive a £100 on-the-spot penalty charge.
It’s also expected the offence will be upgraded to include the driver’s licence being decorated with three penalty points.
This comes as increasing numbers of the nation’s arteries are being converted to run as ‘smart motorways’, making lane discipline and adhering to overhead signs even more essential for the safety of all road users.
There’s no definite date on this yet, but the new motorway driving laws and penalties could be in place by as soon as March.
Stretches of the M1, M4, M5, M6 and M42 have already been upgraded to smart running, with many more – including the M23 near Gatwick expected to be added over the coming months.
When: Spring, so anytime from March.
Verdict: Highways England has sent out 80,000 letters to drivers caught ignoring overhead motorway signs, so there’s clearly a need for legislative deterrents to keep motorists safe on smart motorways.
New digital driving licences – planned for April but no news yet
The idea of having a digital version of your driving licence was first mooted by the DVLA in 2016, in a tweet by DVLA chief executive, Oliver Morley.
Communications from the DVLA have indicated the new digital licence – which will run alongside the existing photocard – is expected to be available from April.
The DVLA says that the new service will be “quick, easy and secure”, allowing people to share and validate information with “trusted” third parties from their mobile devices.
When? Then DVLA boss, Morely, said it was due to be rolled out from April – but Morely has since left his job and no digital licence has arrived on our phone.
Verdict: A great idea to help motorists prove their credentials without having to carry their photocard. From hiring a car to showing it to cops at the roadside, a digital version of our licence is well overdue. Sadly, it looks like this has been kicked into the long grass for now. However, we’re sure it’s inevitable that there will be movement on this in the near future.
Road tax hikes – April
Anyone buying a new diesel car after April 1, will be hit with a big hike in the first-year road tax they’ll pay for a new motor.
Changes revealed in Chancellor Philip Hammond’s Autumn Budget revealed anyone buying anything other than zero-emissions vehicles will pay considerably more than they do at the moment.
The changes will impact first-year tax rates for new diesel vehicles not meeting real-world Euro 6 standards.
Increases will apply to new vehicles first-registered from April 1, 2018. Older cars and new vans will not be hit by the hikes.
The hardest hit, will be those who buy big luxury motors such as the Porsche Cayenne – whose owners could find they’re paying an additional £500 in first-year tax from April.
When? April 1
Verdict: No-one’s going to welcome the prospect of paying more for their road tax, but price rises are inevitable as the need to cut emissions grows increasingly urgent under ‘green’ legislation.
However, there are options to beat the hikes. Shifting your purchase to before the April deadline will save the cash, as will going for a nearly-new motor – because the charges only apply to new cars.
MOT gets tough new changes – May
There was talk of changing the first MOT to four years from new, but that idea has been discounted in favour of tough new tests that could hit diesel drivers hardest.
One big change will cover the way in which defects are categorised. From May, faults and defects will be classified as ‘Dangerous’, Major, and ‘Minor’.
Anything labelled as ‘Dangerous’ or ‘Major’ will lead to an automatic failure, but ‘Minor’ will still enable a car to pass the test. A note of a ‘Minor’ fault will be made on the certificate and digital record.
Things are about to get a lot tougher for diesel owners, too. New emissions tests will lower the limits for oil burners, according to a Government blog on the subject.
The draft MOT inspection manual for the new tests says if the “exhaust on a vehicle fitted with a diesel particulate filter emits visible smoke of any colour” the car should be given a ‘Major’ fault and fail its MOT.
When? The new MOT test will start in May 2018.
Verdict: Anything that helps keeps our roads safe is good thing, but diesel owners will certainly be feeling increasingly beaten and battered as emissions are rolled back yet again.
Ban on young drivers using the roads at night – No date confirmed as yet
Statistics show a high rate of accidents leading to death or serious injury involve young drivers aged 17-24 – with many of these occurring at night.
PM Theresa May spoke in February to say that her Government would look at introducing a probationary period for new drivers. This would be similar to schemes running in Australia and the US.
Along with a ban on night driving, young motorists could also face restrictions on the size of engine in cars they’re allowed to drive.
When? No date as yet.
Verdict: Unlikely to be popular among new drivers, but objections are likely to be discounted if the scheme proved successful in saving lives and preventing serious injuries among young drivers.
Learner drivers will be allowed on motorways – June
The DVSA has now confirmed that from Monday, June 4, learner drivers will be allowed on the UK’s motorway network for first time.
They’ll need to be accompanied by a qualified driving instructor in a vehicle that’s fitted with a dual-control driving system.
Motorway lessons will be at the discretion of the instructor, because no compulsory section has been added to the driving test – despite major changes to the practical exam last December.
However, the introduction of learner drivers to UK motorways could be seen as a test that could eventually pave the way for a compulsory section being added to the test.
Guides for motorway lessons and what they’ll involve can be found here.
When? Look out for learners on the motorway from June 4.
Verdict: With motorists currently passing their test with no experience of motorway driving, this must be seen as a positive move. Accompanied by qualified instructors, lesson should be safe for other users and help build improved driving standards for new drivers on these daunting arteries.
Cuts in speed limits on French roads – July
As with any year, hundreds of thousands of Brits will be surging across the Channel this summer – but this year they’ll face the prospect of new fines for speeding on rural roads.
Concerned about increasing numbers of deaths and injuries on rural roads, the French government has decided to act by slashing speed limits on two-way roads.
Drivers caught exceeding the new limits can expect an on-the-spot fine of at least €68 (£60), but this could technically rise to €750 (£650) if it goes to trial. Even if they’re not fined at the roadside, Brit offenders can still expect to pay for breaking the limit.
These cuts haven’t been widely reported in the UK, so Brits heading off the motorways could easily find themselves hit by on-the-spot fines.
These routes account for around 250,000 miles of the nation’s road network. They’re also the roads most commonly used by Brits heading off the motorways to explore rural areas of the country.
The French Government has revealed it will be cutting limits on all the nation’s two-lane roads from 90km/h (56mph) to 80km/h (50mph).
New French speed limits from July 1, 2018
When? July 1
Verdict: It’s hard to fault any new law that could help save lives, so this can only be seen as a positive move. However, the lack of coverage in the UK will leave some aggrieved if they do fall victim to the new cuts.