What driving law changes did you miss in lockdown?

What driving law changes did you miss in lockdown?

26 July 2021 | Kate Kozlowska | 8 min read

There have been a few changes in the motoring world that happened during the pandemic. New green cards and fuel types are just examples. Are you aware of all of them? Let's find out.

UK driving law changes that happened in 2021

Here are all the changes that happened in the motoring law while the world was in lockdown.

Stricter rules on smart motorways

Smart motorways have been subjected to many debates over the past years. The concerns are mainly around their safety - using the hard shoulder as a running lane in particular. Using the hard shoulder this way leaves the drivers with no safe place to pull into in case of an emergency. Under the pressure of safety campaigners, Highway England has announced changes to the Highway Code, making it illegal to drive in a red X lane. If you see a red X, that means the hard shoulder is being used in an emergency, and drivers are not allowed to drive in that lane. Highway England has also launched a campaign called 'go left' to guide what to do if you break down on a smart motorway.

For more information, please read our guide on smart motorways.

20 mph speed limit in residential areas affecting parts of the UK

There is a new driving law to limit the speed to 20mph in all residential areas in Wales. This new law follows the 2020 ban on parking on pavements. The Welsh Government plans to get only eight regions involved, which will allow them to test it before introducing the new speed law to the rest of the country. If there are no issues, the speed limit of 20mph in residential areas will be rolled out across the whole of Wales in 2023 (for more information, visit GOV.WALES). Similar initiatives are to be introduced in LondonWarwickshire, and Shropshire.

Changes to green cards

A green card is proof your vehicle is insured to drive abroad. When the UK left the EU, all cars required a green card to operate in the EU. However, this is no longer a legal requirement for UK residents.

"This is excellent news. We have long campaigned for the UK to be part of the Green Card Free Circulation Zone so we warmly welcome the decision by the European Commission today. (...)The Commission has taken a pragmatic approach on the matter. (...) UK drivers will no longer need to apply for a green card through their insurer which will help reduce bureaucracy for drivers and road hauliers travelling between the UK and EU. (...) It will be especially welcomed by motorists in Northern Ireland driving across the border to the Republic of Ireland" - said Huw Evans, the Director-General of the Association of British Insurers.

If you take your own car abroad for less than 12 months, you still need to take your V5C logbook with you. If the car you're travelling in is leased or hired, you'll need a VE103 form to prove that the car can be taken out of the UK. In some cases, you might also need an international driving permit.

For more information on this visit GOV.UK.

Harsher punishments for using mobile phones while driving

The Government has been finally able to close a loophole allowing people to get away with taking pictures or videos from behind the wheel. From 2021, holding your phone or sat nav while driving will cost you a £200 fine and six driving licence points. It has also been specified that holding the phone includes choosing a song from your playlist, playing a game or scrolling through social media. Remember, this is for the safety of all of us.

Low Emission Zones planned for 2020 to go live in 2021 instead

Low Emission Zones are areas of a city that require high-polluting vehicles to pay a fee to enter. The pandemic caused some delays to Low Emission Zones planned for 2020, but while the world is catching up, the law is, too. Here's the latest:

  • Bath’s  Clean Air Zone (CAZ) launched in March this year
  • Birmingham’s Low Emission Zone is now active
  • Bristol’s CAZ is now live too
  • Oxford’s Zero Emissions Zone will start in August 2021
  • London's Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) will extend from 25 October 2021

Read our guides on UK plans for Clean Air Zones and London's ULEZ expansion to find out more.

Cleaner fuel proposed for 2021

E10 is new, cleaner petrol planned to be rolled out this year. This fuel could significantly reduce carbon emissions - experts say that it can reduce pollution as if removing 350,000 cars from the roads. Almost all cars can use the new E10 fuel, but some vehicles made before 2011 could not be suitable. To check if your vehicle can use E10, click the button below.

E10 fuel vehicle checker tool

Automatic Lane Keeping Systems have been approved

Drivers will now be able to delegate control of the vehicle to the  Automatic Lane Keeping Systems (ALKS), which are designed to keep vehicles in lane at low speeds. ALK systems are a step towards self-driving vehicle technology. However, the Association of British Insurers claims that the approval could potentially mislead the drivers. By making them feel they can 'switch off' behind the wheel when they still need to be ready to take over the control of the vehicle at any time. UK Government says that the first vehicles with ALK technology can be expected to be on the roads by the end of 2021.

Green number plates for EVs

Electric vehicles will now have green number plates, so they are easily recognised on the roads. Thus, allowing them hassle-free access to cheaper parking and free entry into Low Emission Zones.

Speed limiters on all new cars from 2022

Even though this new law on speed limiters has been approved this year, the changes will only start from 2022. An Intelligent Speed Assistant system (ISA) will alert the drivers when they're going too fast and installed in all new cars, without exemption. Read our blog about 2022 mandatory speed limiters to find out how they work and if you can override them.


We hope that this short guide helped you familiarise yourself with the road law changes that already came or are yet to come into effect in 2021. If you are a driver, it's your responsibility to know the rules and to follow them, so you mustn't miss any changes, and CVC is here to make sure that you don't.

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