Tips for Driving in 2020: New Laws, Rule Changes and Things to Look Out For

Man smiling in work van

What does driving in 2020 hold? From tax changes to new rules for overtaking cyclists, several changes are set to be introduced over the next twelve months, so we’re here to shine a light on what to expect and how it might affect you.

Quick Links

Tax Changes

On 1 April 2019, the government introduced new charges for car tax. So, if you haven’t paid any tax since then, you might find that you have to pay more this year.

Each year, VED (Vehicle Excise Duty) goes up in line with inflation. This means that people who pay car tax annually can expect to pay around £5 more than last year.

Inflation isn’t the only thing that could affect how much you pay for car tax. Higher tax rates for diesel cars could see your bill go up, and if you’re thinking of buying a new car this year, you’ll face an extra £65 in tax for the first year.

For a clear picture of how much car tax you’ll pay in 2020, visit the government’s vehicle tax rates portal.

New Emission Zones

An emission zone has been in place in London since 2008 and was upgraded in 2019 with a range of measures designed to further reduce harmful emissions. The new Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) has helped improve air quality in the capital, and now there are plans to introduce similar schemes in other UK cities.

In July 2020, Birmingham will become the second UK city to enforce a low emission zone, with drivers paying a fee if their vehicle doesn’t meet emissions standards, while drivers in Bristol are having to prepare for a ban on diesel cars for 8 hours a day from 2021. Elsewhere, emissions zoning is expected in Leeds, Cambridge, Newcastle, Cardiff, Derby and Edinburgh, though there aren’t exact dates on when these will come into effect.

Young Pregnant Woman Driving

Driving Abroad After Brexit

With the UK set to leave the EU on 31 January 2020, the rules on driving abroad are changing. After the Brexit transition process, a UK driving licence will no longer be accepted in some EU countries, with motorists requiring an international driving permit to drive overseas.

Before Brexit, UK drivers could travel anywhere in Europe with a standard UK driving licence; an international driving permit was only needed in countries outside the EU and EEA. In some countries, such as Spain, this rule will still apply, but elsewhere, you’ll need an IDP to drive abroad legally, and you might need a “green card” for insurance purposes. Take a look at the international driving permits guide from our partner brand Holts for more information.

Tougher Enforcement on Smart Motorways

Smart motorways are a relatively new addition to Britain’s roads. In fact, depending on where you live, you might never have driven on one. But they are becoming more common, so you can expect to see more of them in the future.

Because smart motorways are still quite new, authorities have given motorists something of a grace period; time to adjust to the rules and system. But it’s expected that smart motorway enforcement will get tougher in 2020, with fines and penalties for breaking the rules becoming more frequent.

So, if smart motorways are part of your regular commute, be mindful of the rules this new year. Don’t drive in a lane marked with a red cross, don’t break the national speed limit (70mph) and don’t drive on the hard shoulder unless the gantry signs tell you to.

M6 Rush Hour Traffic

Pavement Parking Ban

Do you park on the pavement outside your house or perhaps near your office? You might want to think twice in 2020, because pavement parking could soon be illegal across the UK.

It seems like the commonsense thing to do on narrow streets, allowing for other vehicles, including ambulances and fire engines, to pass safely.

But pavement parking can cause problems for pedestrians. Walking on the road to get round a car is dangerous, especially for children, and the elderly or those with limited mobility find it especially difficult to get passed cars on the pavement. There’s also an argument that cars parking on footpaths cause a spike in emissions in residential areas or outside public areas like schools, hospitals and parks.

Pavement parking has been illegal in London since 1974, but the rest of the UK has never followed suit. Some experts believe that 2020 could be the year that local councils finally take action, so you might want to think twice before mounting the curb.

Read this Holts guide on pavement parking for more information on what the ban could entail.

Graduated Driving Licences for New Drivers

As the average annual insurance premium for new drivers continues to rise (£979 a year as of 2019), measures are being considered that could reduce insurance costs while helping to keep new drivers safe. Among other things (like advanced black box telematics technology), this includes graduated driving licences for new drivers. Currently, a pilot scheme is being tested in Northern Ireland involving graduated driving licences. Depending on its success, we could see a new type of driving licence rolled out in 2020.

Graduated driving licences were first discussed back in 2018, with the RAC speculating that a new type of licence could be introduced which restricts new drivers in the following ways:

  • Speed limits
  • Passenger numbers
  • Engine sizes
  • Mandatory ‘P- passed’ plates
  • Curfews

Commuter cycling in park in London.

New Rules on Overtaking Cyclists

Overtaking cyclists is something of a grey area, with information in the Highway Code leaving drivers scratching their heads about the best way to do it. Several road safety campaigns have highlighted the dangers posed to cyclists when a car overtakes, so now the law is changing to make the rules easier to understand.

From 2020, new drivers will also be instructed to give way to cyclists when turning left. So, for example, if there’s a cyclist in front of you, it will be illegal to overtake them and immediately turn left. Instead, you’ll need to slow down, indicate, and wait for them to pass the junction before making the turn.

Also, we could see drivers being encouraged to use the ‘Dutch reach’. This practice, popularised in the Netherlands, involves opening the car door with your other hand, so you have to naturally look over your shoulder giving you a chance to spot cyclists and avoid knocking them over.

These changes may sound simple, and you may already abide by them, but it’s hoped that by tweaking the Highway Code, drivers and cyclists will be able to share the road with fewer accidents.

MOT Changes Recap

In 2019, several changes were made to the UK MOT test, including new categories and emissions rules for diesel engines. If your car is due an MOT in early 2020, familiarise yourself with the changes and what they mean in our guide to understanding the new MOT test.

Whatever 2020 has in store, you can count on Redex to deliver great results mile after mile. Our fuel additives and oils improve the performance and efficiency of your engine, for lower emissions and a better drive. Visit the homepage to find out more.