The pressure on drivers and motorists is expected to continue into the New Year, with a range of new motoring legislation thought to come into force in 2017.
While some of these changes are only my predictions at the moment, the smart money would be on all of them becoming law within the next twelve months.
Don’t say you haven’t been (fore)warned…
Eight new laws introduced in 2015 that affect motorists
Discover four new motoring laws for 2016
Mobile phone points double
The UK Government is expected to react to growing concerns that motorists continue to use their mobile phones behind the wheel by doubling the number of penalty points for those caught red-handed.
“We all have a part to play in ensuring our family and friends do not use their phones while driving,” said Chris Grayling, the minister for transport. He went on to say that he would announce “a tougher new penalty regime shortly”.
The on-the-spot fine is also predicted to double in value, so anyone caught using a mobile phone while driving will potentially face a £200 fixed penalty plus six points on their driving licence. (It’s worth pointing out that this is much harsher than the changes proposed by David Cameron when he was prime minister, which were a £150 fine and four penalty points.)
The changes would mean anyone caught using their phone twice would face a minimum six-month driving ban under the ‘totting up’ procedure. They would also be summoned to appear in court where they could be fined up to £1,000.
March 2017 update
The new rules regarding using a mobile phone whilst driving came in on March 1, 2017 - and the fine now is indeed £200 and six penalty points.
Watch ‘Cadence’, the short film by the AA that highlights the danger of using a phone whilst driving
Car tax changes
The changes to the car tax rules in 2017 have left a lot of commentators – me included – bewildered.
While I accept the need to address falling revenues as motorists flock to buy low-emission vehicles, punishing those that drive more environmentally sensitive cars while simultaneously cutting the cost of owning a mid-price gas guzzler does seem a rather odd thing to do.
Because, as I pointed out at the time the changes were announced, more than 90% of the extra income will come from drivers of cars that emit less than 130g/km of CO2.
Find out about the changes to the car tax rules in 2017
Backless booster seats, which are sometimes referred to as ‘booster cushions’, seeking certification for sale in Great Britain must be labelled to restrict their use to children who are taller than 125cm and weigh more than 22kg.
However, the new regulations will only apply to new products entering the market and won’t be applied retrospectively to products already in circulation and being used by parents, grandparents and carers.
The ban was originally expected to come into force in December 2016, but it isn’t now expected to become law until March 2017.
March 2017 update
As predicted, manufacturers can now only make booster seats designed for children who weigh more than 22kg - but if you have an existing booster seat you will not be expected to change. However, do make sure that the seat you're using has the correct requirements in terms of your child's height, age and weight.
See our guide to using child seats in your car
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Changes to the driving test
The Government recently consulted on changes to the UK driving test. The consultation period has ended, and the following changes are expected to come into force in 2017.
- To increase the duration of the ‘independent driving’ element part of the test, during which the examinee drives following road signs and verbal directions, from 10 to 20 minutes. The candidate will also have to follow directions from a sat-nav for part of the 20-minute drive.
- To replace the ‘reverse around a corner’ and ‘turn in the road’ manoeuvres with more real-life scenarios like driving into and then reversing out of a parking space.
- To ask one of the two vehicle safety questions - known as the ‘show me, tell me’ questions - while the candidate is driving. These questions might include real-life scenarios such as turning on the heated rear screen.
As the DVSA Chief Driving Examiner, Lesley Young, put it: “Candidates will be given more responsibility for making decisions during the test. We want them to show they can cope with distractions and assess risk without the intervention of their instructor or examiner.”
Find out more about the changes to the UK driving test
Parking on kerbs
Finally, ministers are said to be considering making it illegal to park on the pavement or kerb, something that has been illegal in London (unless a specific bylaw allows it) for the past four decades.
While it is already illegal to park in such a way as to cause an obstruction, extending this to include a ban on all pavement parking seems like a common sense move, even if some motoring pressure groups warn that the changes could be seen as something of a cash cow for local authorities keen to make up for deficits in their budget.
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