August 29, 2017 at 9:09 AM
All UK drivers need to be aware of recent changes to the driving laws and how they might affect them. Ignorance is no defence and penalties for breach can be steep.
The effect of the new changes start before you turn on the engine. Changes to car tax rates came into force on 1st April 2017 and affect anyone who bought a new car on or after that date. For the first year of ownership, the registered keeper is liable to pay a sum that varies according to the vehicle's CO2 emissions. Vehicles that do not emit any CO2 and that cost less than £40,000 are not liable for the charge. For other vehicles, after the first year of ownership, the rates drop to one of three set charges:
Petrol or diesel vehicles: £140 per year
Alternative fuel vehicles (including bioethanol, hybrids and LPG): £130 per year
Vehicles emitting zero CO2 and that cost under £40,000: no charge
Cars costing £40,000 or more pay an additional annual surcharge of £310 per year for the first five years of ownership.
Although a similar scheme was in force prior to April 2017, charges have now risen considerably. The government has published an online tool to help drivers establish their personal car tax liability.
Children's Car Seats
Again, before you drive off, you must take note of changes to the laws relating to child car seats. It is now illegal to have an incorrectly fitted child's car seat. Any child who is under 12 years old is required to use a car seat and all newly purchased seats must comply with EU standards. Children under 15 months must use a rear-facing seat; older children are permitted to use forward-facing seats. Backless booster seats should be used only by those children who are 125cm (4ft 10in) tall. Penalties of up to £500 may apply to anyone who breaches these rules. Some exemptions apply, in cases of emergency or unexpected travel and in taxis, vans or coaches.
Drivers who flout speed limits now face fines of up to 175% of their weekly income. Minor speeding offences are capped at £1,000 and major ones at £2,500. An offending driver can also receive between three and six penalty points. Six penalty points is sufficient to revoke the licence of anyone who has passed their test within the previous two years.
Anyone caught using a mobile phone while driving now faces a fine of £200 and six penalty points, even if the phone usage did not result in an accident. If the case goes to court, a fine of up to £1,000 can be levied and the driver can be disqualified. Although hands-free and navigation app usage is permitted provided the phone is mounted into a holder, the driver can still face penalties if the phone is deemed to have been a distraction.