changes to driving laws in 2019 that you need to be aware of

Highway code

Car drivers have always been advised to pass cyclists widely, allowing enough space to ensure that you do not sideswipe them accidentally or cause them to swerve to avoid you. However, additional guidelines have now been added to the Highway Code, stating that a gap of 1.5m or 4ft 11in should be left between your car and the cyclist. This is roughly the width of a car door and failure to do so could result in a £100 fine.

Smart motorways

You could also now face a £100 fine as well as points on your driving license if you are caught driving through a red X sign on a smart motorway.

Learner drivers on motorways

In 2018, it was announced that the rules for learner drivers would be changed to allow them to drive on motorways whilst they are still learning. Previously, driving on the motorway was forbidden for those without the full UK driving license however this new legislation will allow learner drivers to practise motorway driving with the supervision of a qualified instructor.


This year, additional MOT categories will be introduced to assess the safety of a vehicle. The new categories are: dangerous, major, minor, advisory and pass.

Dangerous – cars regarded to be a direct or immediate risk to road safety or the environment. MOT failure.

Major – the car is unsafe and could present a risk to other road users or the environment. MOT failure.

Minor – no significant effect on the safety of the car but the fault must be repaired as soon as possible.

Advisory – no immediate or significant risk to the car’s safety but something has been identified that could become a more serious issue over time.

Pass – Meets the minimum legal standards for car maintenance and condition.

Graduated driving licences

A graduated driving license is something that is still being explored as a possibility. It would mean more restrictions on newly passed drivers for a set period of time after they have passed their test such as curfews, a limited number of passengers, speed limits, engine size limits, mandatory P plates and lower alcohol limits. The reason that graduated driving licenses are being considered is because around one quarter of newly passed motorists are involved in an accident within the first two years of being on the road. Up to 400 young drivers are involved in serious or fatal accidents each year. The new legislation could help to lower this number of new driver accidents significantly.

Car tax

In the autumn budget, it was announced that there would be a further increase in vehicle excise duty rates in accordance with inflation. The new rates will impact both the first year rate on new cars and the annual tax on all vehicles.

From 01.04.2019, the annual rate for all petrol and diesel cars that were registered after 01.04.2017 will go up from £140 to £145 (the £10 discount on hybrid cars will remain).

First year rates on new cars will increase in accordance with the retail index price, which will mean that for the least environmentally friendly cars, there could be an increase of up to £65. The additional cost on cars worth over £40,000 will rise to £320 per year for five years.

If your car was initially taxed before the 2017 changes, your tax could increase by £5-£15.


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