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06 Jan 2021
Jamie Gibbs Alice Campion

Driving law 2021: What are the main changes this year?

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Hands of the wheel of a car driving down a sunny road

From green number plates to driving in the EU, we look at what’s changing for drivers this year. 

It can be hard to keep up with the latest announcements - so we’ve rounded up some changes to the law in 2021 that might affect you and your motor. 

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What's changing this year?

 

Brexit changes to international travel

If you’re driving in the EU in your own vehicle, you’ll need a green card, your driving licence and a GB sticker on your number plate. 

Your green card is proof that your car is insured, you can usually get one of these from your insurance provider.

Make sure you leave plenty of time to get one before your trip.

If you're taking your own car and your trip is less than 12 months, you'll need to take your V5C logbook with you.

If it's a car you've hired or leased, you'll need to take VE103 form which proves you can take it out of the UK.

For more information on this visit GOV.UK.

In some cases, you might need an international driving permit. Read our guide for more information. 

 

Stricter penalties for mobile phone use

A loophole that meant people could get away with taking photos or videos while driving has been closed. 

So in 2021, you can get a £200 fine and six points on your licence if you’re caught holding your phone or sat nav while you’re driving. 

‘Holding’ also means scrolling through a playlist, playing a game or using social media. 

READ MORE: Mobile phones and driving: legal loophole closes to ban all phone use

 

Low Emission Zones postponed until 2021

Low Emission Zones are areas of a city that charge vehicles with high emissions to enter. They’re usually found in areas that have high levels of pollution. 

Some Low Emission Zones were planned for 2020 but were delayed due to the coronavirus. Here’s the latest: 

Birmingham’s Low Emission Zone will now go ahead this year after a delay. 

You can enter the zone with no charge if your vehicle is: 

  • A moped or motorcycle

  • A diesel vehicle, minimum standard Euro 6

  • A petrol vehicle, minimum standard Euro 4

  • A vehicle with zero emissions (electric or hydrogen)

  • A low emissions vehicle 

From 25 October 2021 London’s Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) will extend to create a single, larger zone bounded by the North Circular Road (A406) and the South Circular Road (A205).

You can see if your vehicle can travel in the ULEZ by using the Transport for London (TFL) vehicle checker

Bath planned its Clean Air Zone (CAZ) for 2020, but it’s been delayed. It’ll now be implemented in March 2021.

To get into Bath free, diesel vehicles must be Euro 6 and petrol vehicles must be Euro 4 minimum. 

Oxford’s Zero Emissions Zone will start in the summer of 2021, it was delayed due to the coronavirus.

Only vehicles with zero emissions will be able to drive in the zone. 

Bristol’s CAZ is set to begin in spring this year. You’ll be charged around £9 to enter the zone if your diesel vehicle is Euro 5 or older or your petrol vehicle is Euro 3 or older. 

 

MOT extension ends

Earlier this year, the Prime Minister announced an extension to MOTs. This meant that if your MOT was due between 31 March and 31 July, you wouldn’t have to get an MOT for six months. 

The last date you could have an MOT extension was 31 July 2020, so if you’re in that category then you should arrange to get your MOT this month. 

READ MORE: MOT checklist: how to keep your car roadworthy

 

E10 fuel proposed for this year

A new cleaner petrol known as E10 could be rolled out in 2021.

The fuel aims to reduce carbon emissions. It's estimated that using E10 is the equivalent of taking 350,000 cars off the road.

For more information, read our guide

 

Automatic Lane Keeping Systems approved

Automatic Lane Keeping Systems (ALKS) keep cars in lane automatically at low speeds. And for the first time, drivers will be able to delegate control of the vehicle. 

The United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) approved ALKS in June 2020. 

The system should be introduced in spring this year, but it depends on the outcome of the safety evidence gathered between August and October 2020.

READ MORE: Government introduces automated system to keep your car in lane

 

Green number plates for cars with zero emissions

Electric or zero emission car drivers will now have green number plates

The idea behind the plates is to promote green vehicles by making them more visible. 

Vehicles with these plates could access cheaper parking and free entry into Low Emission Zones. 

The new plates will have a green stripe or flash on the left-hand side of the plate.

 

Speed limiters mandatory in new cars from 2022

Looking further ahead, in 2022, speed limiters will be mandatory in all new cars. 

The speed limiter – known as an Intelligent Speed Assistant system (ISA) – alerts drivers if they’re going too fast. If the driver doesn’t slow their speed the car will intervene. 

The limiter can be over-ridden in some circumstances, for example if you’re overtaking. For more information, take a look at our guide.

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