New driving laws and rules you need to know for 2024

A car on an A road
A car on an A road -Credit:Derby Telegraph

In March 2024, the government provided an update on its plan for drivers, focusing on anti-driver road schemes and halting blanket 20 mph limits. The overall aim is to make journeys smoother, stop unfair enforcement, ease parking, curb inconsiderate driving, and aid the transition to zero-emission driving.

By 2024, more areas in England might see the introduction of 20 mph zones, which are currently in place in parts of London. The Welsh government has already implemented these zones across all residential areas and begun enforcement.

Drivers exceeding the speed limit can attend a roadside engagement presentation lasting about 10 minutes, covering the change in default speed limit, the reasons behind it, and how to identify a 20 mph zone road.

Refusal to watch the presentation results in a fine and points on the licence. However, if you exceed the speed limit by a certain amount, you may not be offered the presentation.

This is part of Operation Ugain, aiming to educate the public about the 20 mph zones and help them adjust to the change.

Scotland has pledged to enforce 20 mph zones on all relevant roads by 2025.

Northern Ireland, however, has not yet committed to the introduction of any 20 mph zones.

In contrast, England's government has opted against a 'blanket use' of 20 mph zones, suggesting that most councils may adopt a more targeted approach.

In March 2023, the government promised to 'strengthen guidance' for councils regarding 20 mph zones, emphasising their placement in suitable areas such as school vicinities.

Several regions in England have begun to implement more 20 mph roads. For instance, Wirral council has sanctioned the 20 mph limit on an additional 1,000 roads, having already approved the limit in 1,700 areas.

Oxfordshire county council is also incorporating the 20 mph zones into 18 towns and villages. The council aims to eventually extend 20 mph zones to 234 out of 310 parishes in Oxfordshire.

The 20 mph zones enhance safety for pedestrians and other road users in residential areas. The reduced speed limit might also promote more active travel by decreasing the risk of collision for cyclists and pedestrians.

In its plan for drivers, the government states it has allocated £5 billion for maintaining road surfaces between 2020 and 2023, with plans to continue this funding into 2024.

The government also announced an £8.3 billion budget for road surfacing in the Autumn budget.

Local councils should be able to utilise this funding to repair bridges and resurface roads.

The government has earmarked £100 million over the next decade for local councils to address potholes and general road maintenance. This funding boost is in response to a 24% increase in pothole complaints since 2020, with one in five motorists reporting vehicle damage due to poor road conditions.

The Local Government Association (LGA) has expressed its support for this initiative, stating: "Councils share the frustration of all road users about the conditions of our local roads. The LGA has long-called for longer term funding to tackle the issues facing our roads. We believe that the government should award local authority Highways Departments with 5 yearly funding allocations to give more certainty. This could bring councils on a par with National Highways."

Additionally, there have been concerns about utility companies leaving roads in substandard conditions after completing work. In response, the government introduced new guidelines in March to facilitate easier charging of utility companies for disruptions caused by street works.

In another move to curb road nuisances, the government is promoting the installation of noise cameras by local authorities to target drivers who modify their exhausts illegally. Trials in Bradford, Birmingham, Bristol, and Great Yarmouth have shown promising results in tackling this issue.

Police and local authorities have the power to seize excessively noisy vehicles, but gathering sufficient evidence for prosecution can be challenging. This lack of deterrence has not discouraged individuals from illegally modifying their cars.

Noise cameras could provide a solution to this issue. These devices are activated by vehicles producing noise levels above 95 dB, a threshold that applies day and night across all road types.

The development of noise cameras began in 2019, initially comprising just a microphone attached to a camera and a number plate reader. Following extensive trials and testing, these noise cameras are now ready for deployment across local authorities.

In its plan for drivers, the government has pledged to curb unfair enforcement practices by local councils.

In March 2023, the government sought feedback from motorists on this matter with the aim of developing guidance for local councils. It also queried local authorities on how they reinvest revenue generated from fines.

The government is scrutinising several Penalty Charge Notices (PCNs) related to moving traffic restrictions, including:.

- Entering a 'no entry' zone.

- Ignoring 'no left or right turn' signs.

- Driving in areas where vehicles are prohibited.

- Unlawfully entering box junctions.

- Driving in mandatory cycle lanes.

According to the plan for drivers, there is a perception among some that local councils use fines as a revenue source rather than a means to enhance road safety.

In 2022, over 7 million Penalty Charge Notices (PCNs) were issued in London alone, marking a significant increase of 41.3% from the previous year. The majority of these PCNs were linked to low traffic neighbourhoods and school streets.

Interestingly, nearly half (43%) of these fines were successfully appealed by drivers.

The plan states:.

"Where there are rules, there must be enforcement. But we need to balance an enforcement regime that cracks down on dangerous driving practices while also, at its heart, trusting responsible drivers. We must discourage dangerous and irresponsible driving while not treating well-intentioned drivers as a way for local authorities to raise revenue."

The Local Government Association (LGA) responded to this by saying:.

"Councils want to work with the Government to make our roads safe and attractive for everyone who uses them. However, it's councils who know their communities best. They should be trusted to make local transport decisions with their local residents."

"Removing the ability of all councils to enforce moving traffic violations would be a backwards step that will risk creating a 2 tier transport system between London and the rest of the country."

In other news, the government announced new funding in March 2024 to upgrade traffic lights across England. These improvements could potentially reduce journey times and alleviate congestion.

There is a grant of up to £50 million on offer for local councils, with £30 million intended for the replacement of outdated traffic lights. The government plans to utilise the remaining £20 million to update traffic light technology to respond to real-time traffic conditions.

According to governmental reports, this funding will provide benefits for about 80 highway authorities throughout England.

In 2023, there was a delay in the prohibition of new petrol and diesel cars sales, moving the goalpost from 2030 to 2035. Rishi Sunak, the Prime Minister, argued that it's "not right to impose more costs on working people".

Despite this, the government acknowledges its role in accelerating the introduction of electric vehicles (EVs). Predictions indicate that 22% of new cars sold in 2024 may be zero-emission vehicles.

Nevertheless, the high costs and limited charging points are significant impediments to owning an EV. As part of their strategy, the government intends to speed up the installation of charge points and issue grants to schools for setups.

Furthermore, they're set to introduce programmes aimed at lowering both initial and ongoing costs of owning an EVs such as:.

Initiating a plug-in van grant of £2,500 for small vans, effective until 2025.

Establishing a plug-in van grant of £5,000 for large vans, valid until 2025.

Providing a discount of £350 off the cost of home charging points for individuals residing in flats.

Lastly, as of 11 December 2023, parking on pavements has become illegal in Scotland.

Parking on dropped kerbs and double parking is also illegal, and if you're caught doing so in Scotland, it could land you a £100 fine.

Scotland has made history by becoming the first UK country to enforce a total ban on pavement parking. But The Living Streets Foundation, who advocated for the said ban, are appealing to the Scottish government for 'proper implementation'.

The fear being that such an absolute prohibition might pose certain hurdles for motorists. Stuart Hay, Director of Living Streets Scotland articulates:.

"Parking on the footway is inconvenient for us all and incredibly dangerous for older and disabled people, who are forced into the road and oncoming traffic. Scotland is leading the way by becoming the first UK nation to say enough is enough and introduce an explicit ban, now we need to make sure we get it right."

"Mass exemptions seriously undermine the ban and put people at risk if they aren't introduced following rigorous assessments and consultation. Ongoing promotion of the ban and engagement with communities is also vital to ensure the implementation is effective."

"Without sufficient enforcement capacity many groups including disabled people will feel badly let down. We want to see targeted and proactive action in known hotspots where pavements need to be cleared of obstructing cars."