New driving laws 2020

UK driving legislation is updated regularly, with new rules and laws coming into effect most years. 2020 is no different, with several pieces of legislation expected to be rolled out throughout the year. In this guide, we’ll take a closer look at some of the new driving laws that you should be aware of in 2020 and beyond.


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Low emission zones


Launched in 2008, London’s Low Emission Zone (LEZ) scheme is a vehicle pollution charge programme aiming to significantly reduce the exhaust emissions of diesel-powered vehicles in London.

Transport for London tightened regulations further in 2012, before implementing an Ultra-Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) last year that applies to all vehicles in Central London. Each scheme charges a fee to drivers of selected vehicles that emit high emissions when driving in a specified zone. And if the fee isn’t paid, the driver will be liable to pay a Penalty Charge Notice.

2020 will see a nationwide rollout of Low Emission Zones, with many major cities implementing new traffic pollution charge schemes to combat congestion and climate change. See below for rundown – from north to south – of the expected new rules.


Aberdeen's LEZ will cover the city centre, where the air is quality is poorest.


Dundee’s proposed LEZ boundary is focused on the city’s inner ring road.


Glasgow’s current LEZ applies only to local buses. In 2022, however, the legislation will cover all vehicles entering the specified zone that don’t meet emission standards.

The proposed LEZ zones will adopt a no-nonsense approach to banning vehicles that fail to meet emission standards. Therefore, a daily fee will be waivered in favour of a fine. Residents in these areas will be offered a grace period to allow them to obtain a vehicle that meets the required emission standards.


2020 will see York implement a charge to buses that fail to meet emission standards, while the council also aims to make York a car-free city by 2023.


Leeds’ Clean Air Zone (CAZ) was pencilled in for the 6th January this year but was delayed. The council is currently working on a new launch date, which is expected to be in the second half of the year.

Concentrated on central Leeds, the scheme will apply to HGVs, buses and coaches, all of which will be charged £50 to travel through. Taxis and private hire vehicles will face a £12.50 charge. These fees apply only to vehicles that fail to meet emission standards and do not include private vehicles.


The Birmingham CAZ was set to come into effect on 1st July 2020 but has been delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic and will now not come into force until 2021. When it does, a daily fee of £8 will be applied to cars, taxis, LGVs and minibuses that fail to meet emission standards. Public transport vehicles and HGVs will pay £50 per day.

Residents with a vehicle registered within the CAZ boundary will be exempt from the fee for two years, but the Birmingham council will offer support to help residents adjust to the CAZ. Notable aid comes in the form of £1,000 mobility credit or a £2000 scrappage scheme.

Bath and North Somerset, England

Bath and North Somerset will implement a CAZ in the city centre this year, focusing on high emission vehicles that do not meet the relevant emission standards.

HGVs, buses and coaches will be required to pay a daily charge of £100, while taxis, vans and private hire vehicles will be subject to a £9 daily charge.

Private vehicles and motorcycles will be exempt regardless of their emission output.


Smart motorway emergency stopping areas

smart motorways

Statistics indicate that between 2015 and 2018, 11 people a year on average died on smart motorways in England, prompting a proposed overhaul of safety legislation. At present, the plan is to remove confusion over dynamic hard shoulders on smart motorways and decrease the distance between safe stopping areas.

Changes to smart motorways in 2020 are expected to include:

  • Adding new emergency stopping areas on smart motorway sections
  • Deploying new technology to detect stopped vehicles
  • Making emergency areas more visible
  • Introducing more signs highlighting emergency stopping areas
  • Spending £5m on a communications campaign to increase the public’s understanding of smart motorways

Mobile phone ‘communication’ loophole closure


It’s common knowledge that using your phone while driving without employing hands-free technology is strictly forbidden and punishable with penalty points, fines, and driving bans.

Last year a UK driver successfully appealed a charge for using his mobile phone to record a video of a crash while driving, with his lawyers arguing that he wasn’t using the phone to communicate. The law, which is over 15 years old, didn’t originally specify that phone use was unlawful, only that communication through a mobile device was.

In light of this case, the government are set to update legislative measures to close that loophole and cover all uses of a mobile phone, from messaging and web browsing to taking photos and videos.


Theory test changes


The current driving theory test, required to advance to the practical test and achieve qualified driver status, comprises a 50-question multiple-choice exam followed by an interactive hazard perception test. The questions are advised by written case studies, but in a bid to make the theory test more accessible, the DVSA recently proposed a new format.

In a bid to increase accessibility for learners with difficulties reading, the written case studies will be replaced by 30 second videos followed by three sets of questions. This change will be implemented from April 14th, 2020.


Dutch reach technique to protect cyclists


The updated 2020 Highway Code is set to include guidance on how to utilise the ‘Dutch reach’ technique for opening your car door, a move made to reduce the number of cyclists injured by car doors opening in their path (700 a year according to research).

The Dutch reach involves using your furthest away hand (left hand for standard right-hand drive UK cars) to open the driver’s side car door, which prompts you to reach over and simultaneously turn your shoulders and head, reminding you to check for oncoming cyclists.


Car tax changes


The amount of car tax that motorists currently pay is calculated based on their vehicle’s CO2 emissions. In a nutshell – the more emissions your car puts out, the more you pay in car tax. The actual amount of car tax you pay has historically been calculated using a system called the New European Driving Cycle (NEDC), but this framework was last updated all the way back in 1997.

New changes to car tax in 2020 will see a rollout of a new system of calculating the tax due per motorist, called the Worldwide Harmonised Light Vehicle Test Procedure (WLTP). This framework was created in 2017 and, from April 2020, all car tax bills will be calculated using WLTP standards.

This could potentially increase the amount of car tax you’re liable to pay. Check out the differences between NEDC and WLTP standards for more information.


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