Motoring laws to be aware of in 2020

Get in the know of 2020 motoring law changes

With several new motoring laws set to be introduced during 2020, it might be easy to fall into traps without realising.

Here’s our quick guide to the new legislation set to be introduced over the next year, along with some of the most recent changes that might have passed you by….

Low emissions restrictions in major cities

In April 2019, London introduced a new Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) to replace its T-charge schemes. It currently applies to Central London and will be extended across all of inner London in 2021. Police will also introduce versions of the scheme elsewhere around the country.

Birmingham and Leeds have both confirmed plans to introduce their own emissions policies in 2020, while Bristol, Cambridge, Cardiff, Newcastle, Derby and Edinburgh have also expressed interest in similar schemes.

Vehicles that fail to meet ULEZ emission standards will have to pay a charge to drive in defined low emission zones. 

Post-Brexit driving permits and green cards

As Brexit looms, it’s still possible we may leave the EU without a trade deal. If this is the case, current UK driving licences may well become invalid for driving in the EU.

UK motorists looking to drive in Europe will need to purchase an international permit. These will be available from the Post Office or selected driving agencies, and cost £5.50.

Motor insurance green cards will also be required for driving in the EU and European Economic Area (EEA).

Parking restrictions

Pavement parking is already illegal in London (unless otherwise signposted), and new legislation could see restrictions extended across the rest of England.

In addition, the RAC is pushing for a new code of practice to help protect drivers from unscrupulous parking companies, creating a single law that will be applied across England – although any new laws may take some time to be introduced.

New MOT rules

New defect categories have been introduced for vehicle MOTs, which you’ll need to be aware of. Defects will be listed under the categories of:

  • Pass – meets MOT standards
  • Advisory – defects could cause possible future issues
  • Minor – defects won’t affect the safety of the car, but the issue needs to be fixed as soon as possible
  • Major – defects could be dangerous for safety or the environment, and the car will not pass an MOT
  • Dangerous – defects are a definite risk for road safety or the environment, and the car will not pass an MOT

A number of new checks will also be introduced, including for:

  • Contaminated brake fluids
  • Underinflated tyres
  • Malfunctioning reversing lights
  • Malfunctioning brake pad warning lights
  • Missing brake pads or discs
  • Malfunctioning daytime running lights

Reversing lights will only be checked on cars produced after September 2009, while daytime running lights will be checked only on cars produced after March 2018.

Rises in car tax

Last April, Vehicle Excise Duty (VED) rose to keep pace with inflation. For most drivers this involved increases of around £5 a year in car tax.

Owners of high emission cars will be charged an additional £15, while diesel car owners whose vehicles fail to meet RDE2 (Real Driving Emissions Step 2) emission standards will continue to pay higher tax rates. New car buyers could also face an extra £65 on their first year’s car tax.

Smart motorway laws

It’s already illegal for motorists to drive in lanes marked with a red ‘X’ sign on smart motorways. Drivers that don’t follow the signs could be fined up to £100, but stronger penalties could soon be enforced.

With many traditional hard shoulders on motorways now being converted into smart lanes, road traffic experts want more emergency refuge areas across the network, reducing the risk for those who break down or are involved in an accident.

Work to create new refuge areas has already begun on the M25.

Intelligent Speed Assist

Intelligent Speed Assist is set to become a mandatory safety feature in new cars from 2022, enhancing road safety and minimising collisions. This comes under the EU’s revised General Safety Regulation which the UK has committed to follow.

Other soon-to-be mandatory safety systems include warnings for driver distraction and drowsiness, cameras/sensors for reversing, advanced emergency braking, lane keeping assistance and a ‘black box’ data recorder for incident reporting.

Graduated drivers

The government is considering bringing in a new graduated driving licence, which would see added restrictions for newly qualified drivers. The RAC believes this could include changes around the times they are allowed on the road, plus new limits on speed, alcohol levels and passenger numbers.

Currently there are no such restrictions on new drivers, although anyone who racks up six penalty points in the first two years of driving will have their licence revoked.

A pilot scheme for graduated licences was trialled in Northern Ireland from 2019-2020. If the trial is considered successful, the scheme is expected to be rolled out across England.

Driving lessons on the motorway

Learner drivers are now allowed to take lessons on the motorway when accompanied by an instructor with dual controls in the car.

For many years it was illegal for new drivers to use the motorway before they had passed their driving test.

Motorway driving is optional for learners and is not yet a part of UK driving tests. 

Overtaking cyclists

Drivers will soon be encouraged to use the “Dutch reach” when opening their car doors. This means using your far hand to reach the handle, as opposed to the hand closest to the door, allowing you time to look out of the window for approaching cyclists or pedestrians.

By law, drivers will now also be expected to give way to cyclists and pedestrians when turning left.

In March 2019 new penalties were introduced, allowing police officers to issue fines of up to £100 and three penalty points to drivers who put cyclists at risk.

Hadn’t heard about the changes to the MOT guidelines? Read up on the new roadworthy requirements in our quick summary, so you and your vehicle don’t get caught out by the changes.


  1. Robert Watson says:

    What about the current cycling groups who block single carriageway roads and intentionally spread even further to stop following vehicles from overtaking?

  2. John Manning says:

    Get rid of the Murder ways .And stop wasting my money on them. And the families of those who have been killed on these (smart murderways )must be compensated for this stupidity. And those who thought them up and still push for them need to be brought to book.

    • Emma says:

      Totally agree! The hard shoulder is there for a reason; for broken down vehicles, and in some cases to let emergency services use it to get to crashes when the motorway is crawling. Bit like flood plans really, there for a reason, but the government chooses to ignore this!

  3. Jan says:

    Why must motorists give way to cyclists, motorists pay to use the road also have to have insurance, it’s about time this country looks after the motorist instead of the cyclists.

    • Diane says:

      Roads are paid for by council tax, and cyclists pay that. They pay as much for the road as any driver, and have every right to be on it, and be safe on it, after all, they aren’t polluting the air for your children.

    • Shelly says:

      Totally agree!! I am sick and tired of the law always presuming the motorist is in the wrong.

  4. Antonio Marino Lione says:

    You can’t always see puddles in the road due to flowing rainwater. I remember driving through Darley Dale many years ago and the train was torrential. Due to the way the water was moving across the carriageway, I didn’t notice a large, kerbside puddle. As I drove through it, a large amount of water washed over a lady walking her dog. I immediately stopped and ran back to apologise to her. Luckily, she accepted them and we parted company amicably.

  5. Andrew Bradley says:

    I am all for protecting cyclists when they are correctly using the public highway.
    However I find it totally objectionable when a very large proportion of them have now taken to using pedestrian footpaths and walkways (desinated cycle\pedestrian lanes aside)
    Most of them are wearing full protective gear and also the assocated safety helmet along with copious cycle lighting.
    All really rather farcical!
    Is this to protect them from the poor defenseless pedestrian?
    A lot of the riders come zooming along the footpaths with little or no warning, on heavy quite dangerous machines.
    It is as if footpaths have now become the cyclists domain!
    This is a totally illegal practice and yet sadly I have found the local police to be very uninterested and unhelpful.

    It is going to take serious or fatal accidents to change apathetic opinions.
    Some postive action needs to be taken now.
    Insurance cover and competancy tests also need to be a part of this.

    Latest update
    Whilst waliking home from my local supermarket on two recent occasions, I have been passed by a man exceeding six feet, riding an electric scooter.
    At considerable speed I might add.
    What next will I need to dodge?

    I intend to take these matters up with my local MP.
    Wish me luck.

    I’m a regular car user who still likes to walk and who used to enjoy cycling in bygone days (on the road of course!)

  6. Jason Woodward says:

    When will drivers be given something more positive all you people seem too do is raise taxes new fines new restrictions how about you slap fines on drivers from the EU who drive lorry’s on our roads with nothing more than a tractor licence how about anyone who comes too this country with the purpose too live have too desire there driving course the minute they decide they want too stay driving is fast becoming a luxury for the well off and not for the every day worker I’ve just had too speaks a future buying another car too replace my current one because it doesn’t meet the new ulez rules which I could of done without you people just seem too want too put everyone on a financial strain do people know where all the secondhand cars go from our country and the fact that no matter how old these cars are they are sold of too third world country’s which too me sounds bloody stupid I thought the idea was too remove these cars and diantle them so we have too turn too more cleaner cars how’s that gonna happen if they just get sent too other country’s too be used .

  7. Les Latham says:

    Seems like the law is giving cyclists a bigger opportunity to ride any way they want without regard for any other road users

  8. Reginald Ascott says:

    I would have no objection to cyclists using the road if they were required, like motorists, to have passed a mandatory cycling test; paid for insurance; and were required to register they’re bicycles to their home address; and payed to have an mot every year to ensure that the bicycles were road worthy!!!!

  9. Shanderwick says:

    I amazes me that the poor motorist is being tasked with yet more legislation to squeeze that little extra revenue from them! Today, whilst on my daily commute, two different sets of traffic lights that were very clearly on RED were ignored by two separate cyclists… This is not unusual – And what about the poor unfortunate driver that has had to deal with the aftermath of running over one of these idiots.

    I used to cycle to work, but with all of these ignorant and dangerous cyclists around i do not want to be tarred with the same brush, i now take my car and my push bike is garaged. Cyclist should have to register their bike and ensure that it is in a suitable condition for road use ( Effective brakes, lights back and front as a minimum ). What ever happened to the cycling proficiency test we had years ago?

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