New driving laws: the UK motoring rules that could change in 2021 – from driving lessons to clean air zones

From rules around the use of mobile phones while driving to road tax increases – here’s what to expect

From April 2021 a number of new rules, regulations and laws will come into effect that will impact the lives of road users across the country.

Most of the confirmed and proposed changes relate in some way to making driving more environmentally friendly, whether that be by increasing the cost of maintaining an inefficient vehicle or discouraging car journeys in urban spaces.

Welcome news in the age of the climate crisis, but what exactly is likely to change next month?

From April, drivers in Bath (pictured) and Birmingham will have to pay up to £8 per day to use their vehicle in the city centre (Photo by Matt Cardy/Getty Images)

Here are the confirmed and proposed law changes that will affect drivers.

'Benefit in Kind'

The Government is currently considering whether to reintroduce a ‘Benefit in Kind’ tax rate for drivers.

The rate was abolished in 2020, but as the Government looks to make back the colossal debt sustained during the Covid-19 pandemic, this could be one way of reclaiming those losses.

Many of the proposed and confirmed changes are aimed at tackling congestion, and cutting back emissions (Photo: Matt Cardy/Getty Images)

If reintroduced, the scheme could see drivers paying up £390 per year to use their vehicles – the amount you pay would be calculated on your vehicle's value and your income, and would start at one per cent before going up to two the following year.

Local clean air zone charges

Think the capital’s congestion charge, but rolled out in other cities and conurbations where pollutants caused by cars are high.

From April, those driving in both Bath and Birmingham will have to pay up to £8 per day to use their vehicle in the city centre.

It's hoped the increased cost will encourage drivers towards alternative, cleaner forms of transport.

Also in the South West, a similar clean air zone is being considered for Bristol.

Outer London driving charge

Sticking with the cleaner air theme, if introduced in April, the Outer London driving charge would see drivers having to pay for the privilege of travelling through the city’s outer boroughs, and not just the more populous central areas.

Vehicle Excise Duty

Road tax could rise next month, and though an increase in VED would come as little surprise (it usually rises every year in line with inflation), running a petrol or diesel car on the road is likely to cost drivers up to £155.

Fuel duty freeze

Ahead of this year’s spring Budget, there were rumours that Chancellor Rishi Sunak was planning to increase the rate of fuel tax, which had been frozen for a number of years.

Many drivers objected to the proposed changes, and it was announced as part of the Budget that the tax rate will instead remain frozen for at least another year.

That rate is currently 57.95p per litre of fuel.

Purchase tax

Another proposed change to help the UK Government along the path of its so-called ‘green industrial revolution’, the purpose of purchase tax would be – if implemented – to drive down the cost of environmentally-friendly vehicles, by increasing the price for those with less efficient vehicles.

The tax has been proposed by the UK Energy Research Centre, and would see those whose cars emit more than 225gCO2/km required to pay a 50 per cent purchase tax from this year, which would increase in instalments.

Mobile phone ban

Using your phone whilst driving is already ill-advised and illegal in many situations, but new laws will make the rules around using gadgets while operating vehicles even more stringent.

Drivers could be fined £200 and have six points put on their licence under the proposed rules, intended to shore up a bizarre loophole that currently allows drives to use their phones to take photos and videos.

Driving lessons

12 April marks the date that, along with a host of other restrictions being eased, driving lessons can begin once again in England.

That is, of course, should everything in the Government’s ‘roadmap’ out of lockdown go to plan, but assuming it does, millions will be able to resume lessons after having them cut short by the third national lockdown first implemented in January.

Practical tests will take a little while longer to return – 22 April is the date currently earmarked for their safe resumption.

Pavement parking ban

Parking on the pavement is currently banned in London, and the Government could extend that ruling to the rest of the country in April.

Doing so would free up valuable pedestrian space (especially in the age of social distancing); those who break the rules could face £70 fines.