As a motorist in the UK, it is of crucial importance that you understand and follow traffic law. The law is constantly changing, with updated rules and new offences introduced to keep pace with changing technologies and reinforce good driving habits. Here are some of the most important laws for you to be aware of, including some new ones that could well trip you up if you are unaware:
Speeding is something of an evergreen motoring offence, and often the first one that will come to mind when asked to name a driving law. Speeding is no joke, though, and can garner you a minimum fine of £100 if you are caught speeding. If the case makes it to court, the severity of the measures taken against you can increase depending on your individual situation – leaving you open to receiving a disqualification from driving.
Driving Without Insurance
Insurance is a legal requirement for using roads in the UK; driving without insurance is a serious offence, and one which can result in six penalty points on your license and a fixed fine of £300 – or, if it reaches court, an unlimited fine and even a driving ban.
Ensuring you have insurance is crucial for the legality of your journey, but you do not necessarily need a full year-round insurance plan to do this. You can also opt for short-term car insurance to cover your vehicle, or cover yourself when borrowing a vehicle, for a pre-agreed period of time.
Operating a Handheld Device
Driving law is not immutable, and there have been some new laws introduced that police the activities of those in the driver’s seat. One of the more recent additions comes in the form of a ban on the use of handheld devices when operating a vehicle.
Previous laws banned calling or texting on a phone while driving, resulting in the widespread adoption of hands-free technology; the new law bans the use of an uncradled phone outright, whether checking the weather or searching for a music playlist. The law applies to any vehicle with the engine running, whether idling or stationary in traffic.
Changes to Highway Code
Here, an honourable mention: April 2022 saw the formal introduction of a revised Highway Code, which included a number of major changes to road use guidelines that still trip up motorists daily. The biggest addition is that of a road ‘hierarchy’, wherein different kinds of vehicle and road user get priority over one another. The hierarchy seeks to further protect cyclists from potentially dangerous driving, and places heavier vehicles at the bottom to encourage safer defensive driving.
Another key change is the granting of right of way to pedestrians at junctions; drivers should now give way where pedestrians are looking to cross a road you intend to pull out from or turn into. The Highway Code is not a legal document in and of itself, though – and while many of the recommendations are backed by law, the rules given are often guidelines for road etiquette. While occasional failure to observe the updated rules may not result in a penalty, continued infractions could increase the likelihood of police intervention.