New car laws to remember this spring and summer

Spring is a busy time of year for the motoring industry, with new car models often launched to coincide with the new registration plate in March, but beyond that there are new car laws coming into effect throughout spring and summer 2018.

Here’s our summary of some to look out for, and when they are due to come into effect, if a specific date is known.

New diesel car tax

Probably the biggest headline-grabber is the new diesel car tax, which imposes a higher rate of vehicle duty on new diesel cars in their first year of registration, depending on how polluting they are.

It’s led to a lot of confusion as many motorists have started to avoid diesel engines altogether, even though only brand new first-year cars are currently affected by the tax that came into force on April 1st.

Classic car MOT exemption

From May 20th 2018, classic cars over 40 years old will no longer need to pass an annual MOT inspection in most cases – but that doesn’t mean they don’t need to be kept in roadworthy condition.

Because many classic cars are not driven often, they can go many years with no significant change in condition, making an annual MOT unnecessary.

The government has recognised this, and from May 2018 cars over 40 years old will be exempt from the annual test unless they are substantially altered.

New MOT categories

Also on May 20th 2018, the way defects are recorded during an MOT inspection is due to change, so that there are minor, major and dangerous categories – similar to how infringements are recorded during a driving test.

Your vehicle will be able to pass an MOT with minor defects, although they will be recorded, while any major problems will need repairing before it can be issued with a pass.

Learner drivers on the motorway

Don’t panic if you see a learner driver on the motorway after June 4th 2018 – as long as they are in a dual-control vehicle with a qualified instructor, it will be perfectly legal.

Hopefully this will mainly be used by learners who are nearing their driving test and ready to experience motorway driving at full speed – and not by novice learners who are not ready for the challenges of motorway driving.

Smart motorway fixed penalties

Plans are going ahead to introduce fixed penalties for drivers who pass under a red X on a smart motorway gantry.

This is the symbol that shows a particular lane is closed – often the hard shoulder when it is not required as a live lane, but in some cases used to show that the entire motorway is closed to traffic at a particular junction.

It is already illegal to drive through a red X on your lane, but a law change means that in future, automatic fixed penalties of £100 and three licence endorsement points will be applied, with no police intervention needed.

Digital driving licences

Finally, look out for the public launch of digital driving licences, something the DVLA has been working on in recent months.

They don’t replace your photocard licence, but they can be used instead of it – so if you carry your phone with you, for example, you can show your digital driving licence on that rather than also carrying your photocard.