Mobile phone use
Although the law on mobile phone use appears to be fairly straightforward – that you can’t use a hand-held device while at the wheel – a loophole has recently been exploited by a driver who used his phone to film a crash. Although the motorist was initially convicted of an offence, lawyers successfully appealed the ruling on the grounds that he wasn’t using the device for “communicating”. Policymakers now plan to close this loophole by expanding the list of prohibited acts to include any physical interaction with a hand-held phone while at the wheel, including browsing the internet, scrolling through a playlist or taking photos.
Low Emissions Zones
In April 2019 the UK’s first Ultra Low Emissions Zone came into force in London, covering the same area as the Congestion Charge. Designed to clean up the city’s polluted air and improve Londoners’ health, the initiative imposes heavy charges on most vehicles in order to discourage drivers from entering the ULEZ. Following the success of the scheme, a number of UK cities now look set to follow suit in 2020. Birmingham is on track to launch a Clean Air Zone this summer, while Leeds, Bristol, Sheffield and Greater Manchester all have similar agendas, and some councils are even considering a blanket ban on vehicles entering city centres.
The UK’s cycling infrastructure has improved enormously in recent years, with the growth of cycle lanes on busy roads, and the expansion of the national cycle network. But riders remain at risk and Cycling UK reports that 500 people have been injured by drivers opening the door of stationary vehicles – a highly dangerous act known as “car dooring”. In response, cycling organisations have been campaigning for drivers to adopt what’s known as “Dutch reach” – this means that when you’re getting out of your car, you reach over with your left hand to open the door. This turns your body towards the window, virtually forcing you to look out for oncoming cyclists. Expect changes in the updated 2020 Highway Code.
Graduated driving licence
Figures from the Department for Transport show that a staggering one in five newly qualified drivers crash their car within their first 12 months behind the wheel. So, in an attempt to reduce the number of road casualties, the government is considering the introduction of Graduated Driving Licences (GDL). A GDL imposes restrictions on young drivers for a fixed period after they pass their test, such as no driving at night, or limiting the number of passengers they can carry. Similar initiatives have already been implemented in New Zealand and Sweden, but the UK plans are still at the review stage following concerns around the potential impact on young people’s ability to commute to work or college. Expect an update later this year.