The rules and laws around driving never stay the same for long.
Every year brings a wave of new plans, consultations and legislation, and 2022 won’t be any different.
Already, we’re aware of some laws that will be changing in the next 12 months as well as major revisions to the Highway Code, which guides how all road users behave.
Undoubtedly more changes will be sprung on us as the year progresses but below we’ve rounded up the new laws and rule changes we already know about.
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Possibly the biggest change expected to arrive in 2022 is a tightening of the rules around mobile phone use at the wheel.
Currently, drivers can be fined £200 and given six penalty points for using a handheld phone for “interactive communication” while driving. However, a loophole means that they can’t be prosecuted for taking videos, photos or other uses such as scrolling through downloaded music.
Under the new law, any use of a handheld phone or other device while driving will become illegal and punishable by the same £200 fine and six points.
Hierarchy of road users
Another major change due to affect all road users is the release of the updated Highway Code, due to come into effect in January.
Key changes to the guide include the creation of an official “hierarchy of road users” designed to protect the most vulnerable, including pedestrians and cyclists.
The new hierarchy will mean road users who can do the greatest harm will have the greatest responsibility to reduce the danger they may pose to others. This places more, but not complete, responsibility on those in larger vehicles to ensure they don’t put cyclists and pedestrians at risk.
The new Highway Code also states that drivers turning into a junction or changing lanes should not cross the path of cyclists, horse riders or horse-drawn vehicles. And it gives pedestrians priority when they are waiting to cross at a crossing or junction rather than only when they are already crossing.
Car and trailer rules
The law around who can tow a trailer was due to change in November but was put on hold at the last minute. Since then, the DVSA has said the new rules around licensing will come in “as soon as possible”, meaning the change is likely to arrive in 2022.
Under current law drivers who passed their test from 1 January 1997 must sit a car and trailer test in order to tow anything over 750kg. However, under the planned change this requirement will be scrapped and all drivers will be able to tow trailers up to 3.,500kg without an additional test.
A separate Bill outlawing the practice has already been passed in Scotland but won’t come into force until 2023.
Fitness to drive
In a bid to speed up licence renewal applications, the Government is considering changing the rules on who can conduct medical questionnaires.
A consultation on allowing other medical practitioners to carry out the checks ended earlier in December and if its proposals are accepted nurses and other medical practioners could join registered doctors in being able to conduct the checks.
Bus lanes and yellow box junctions
From next year councils in England will be given the power to issue fines for a variety of “moving traffic offences”, such as driving in a bus lane, stopping in a yellow box junction or ignoring no-entry signs.
At the moment only councils in London and Cardiff have such powers but earlier this year the Department for Transport confirmed it intended to enact dormant elements of the Traffic Management Act to hand the same authority to other English councils.
This is expected to get parliamentary approval in early 2022 and once that happens councils will be able to issue fixed £70 fines for a host of offences currently overseen by the police.