New driving laws 2021

Last updated October 21, 2021

The beginning of 2021 brings along with it a few changes to driving laws in the UK. It can be hard to keep track of changes in the law, so we’ve summarised some of the important changes that might affect you and your vehicle.

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Driving in the EU

Unsurprisingly, one of the most prominent changes to driving law this year came from our departure from the European Union. Post-Brexit, there are a few differences to the way we can drive in the EU.

If you’re planning on driving in an EU country, you will now need a green card and a GB sticker on your number plate. This green card will prove that your car is appropriately insured. You will be able to obtain this from your insurance provider, so be sure to add this to your pre-trip checklist.

Additionally, if you’re travelling in the EU for less than 12 months, you’ll need to take your vehicle’s logbook with you. You can find out more useful information in our guide to driving in Europe.

Stricter penalties for using mobile phones

This year, penalties are going to become a lot tougher on those who use their mobile phones while driving. In past years, there was a loophole that enabled people to avoid prosecution when taking photos or videos whilst driving.

The law has since been updated, which means you could now receive a £200 fine and six points on your licence for holding your phone or satnav whilst driving. ‘Holding’ your phone refers to anything from taking a picture to scrolling through a playlist or social media.

Clean Air Zones

2021 will see the introduction of Clean Air Zones across the UK in cities where emissions are particularly high. This means that there will be a daily charge to drive in particular areas in non-compliant vehicles.

The first will be rolled out in Birmingham, where you will have to pay £8 per day to drive anywhere within the A4540 Middleway ring-road unless you’re in a low-emission vehicle. Charges are applicable all-day every-day, and vehicles will include non-compliant cars as well as taxis, large goods vehicles (LGVs) and minibuses.

Other cities due to become CAZs during the year are Bath, Oxford, Leeds and Bristol.

If your vehicle is a moped or motorcycle, a diesel vehicle with a minimum standard Euro 6, or a petrol vehicle minimum standard Euro 4, you can avoid the fees. However, it should be noted that in Bristol these specifications change slightly.

Exceptions to the charge relate to mopeds/motorcycle, a diesel vehicle with a minimum standard Euro 5, or Euro 3 for petrol. Additionally, their fees sit at £9 per day.

Ultra-Low Emission Zone in Inner London

Along with the invention of new Clean Air Zones, there will be new rules imposed in London this year. Central London’s Ultra-Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) will be extended to the entirety of Inner London.

Under these wider rules, drivers will have to pay a fee to drive anywhere in this area if their vehicles don’t meet emissions standards. The area itself will go from North Circular Road (A406) and South Circular Road (A205) but will not include these roads themselves.

The charge will be £12.50 for most vehicle types, including cars, motorcycles and vans (up to and including 3.5 tonnes) and £100 for heavier vehicles, including lorries (over 3.5 tonnes) and buses/coaches (over 5 tonnes).

You can check if your vehicle meets the standard on the TFL website.

Green plates

Electric or other zero-emission cars will be given green number plates this year. This is an initiative designed to help promote green vehicles by making them more visible to others on the road. Plates on these vehicles will now have a green stripe or flash on the left-hand side.

Vehicles with these plates will be given special privileges, such as access to cheaper parking and free entry into Low-Emission Zones and Clean Air Zones.

MOT extension ends

Last year, the Prime Minister announced there would be MOT extensions for vehicles during the COVID-19 pandemic. This would apply to any vehicle that needed an MOT between 31st March and 31st July, and you could get an extension for six months.

This precedent for MOT extensions has since ended, with the last extensions granted in July. So, if you got an extension for your vehicle in July, you will need to arrange to get your MOT this month. It’s also important to note that at this moment in time, you can no longer apply for an MOT extension either, so be sure to arrange one on time.

Other things to note

Whilst this isn’t a law, a new petrol called E10 will possibly be released this year. This fuel aims to reduce carbon emissions, and it’s estimated that using E10 will be the equivalent of taking 350,000 cars off the road.

Automated Lane Keeping Systems may also be rolled out this year. This is a technological system that would allow the driver to delegate control of the vehicle to a programme, which will keep cars in lane automatically at low speeds. The roll-out of these systems is dependent on the outcome of safety evidence gathered between August and October last year.

Looking toward the future, the government has also pledged to ban the sale of new petrol and diesel cars from 2030. This is a move designed to help the UK combat climate change and additionally create around a quarter of a million new jobs.