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12 Apr, 2021/ by National Accident Helpline /News, Personal Injury News

Are you aware of the new driving laws? We highlight the changes that are on the way.

Since 8th March when lockdown restrictions started easing, the ‘stay at home' rule has lifted and the ‘stay local' message has been dropped. For many of us, this news has undoubtedly been warmly received as households can move outside of their own locality and drivers no longer need a legitimate excuse to get behind the wheel of their cars.

We're still advised to avoid making unnecessary journeys but according to what's reported to have been said by a Department for Transport spokesperson recently,

you are able to go for a leisurely drive now that the stay at home regulations have been lifted.

How does the ‘rule of six' affect drivers?

While it's not been in place during the second and third lockdowns, the ‘rule of six' was first used to prohibit social gatherings of more than six people back in September last year.

For motorists, the return of this rule means that day trips to visit public spots and to join a group of six in total, or to go to outdoor sports facilities, are now allowed.

Driving safety in the spotlight

Bringing more scope for drivers to use their cars again to get to a ‘staycation' spot, enjoy a trip to a non-essential retail outlet or even to watch a film at a drive-in cinema, the latest step in the  unlocking is now upon us. This also gives learner drivers cause to celebrate as lessons start up again, closely followed by the resumption of tests before the end of the month.

It's therefore perhaps unsurprising to learn that a raft of new driving laws are being introduced at the same time as driving restrictions across the UK start to lift. Consequently, for many drivers who have mostly remained at home and only used their cars infrequently, the timing for brushing up on their knowledge couldn't be more apt.

Amongst the new laws - including rises in car taxes and changes to parking limits - there will also be a significant crackdown on drivers caught using mobile phones behind the wheel.

UK ban of handheld mobiles while driving

Under the new laws, drivers are banned from even touching a device while on the move. If they are caught either holding or touching their phones while driving, it's likely that six points and a £200 fine will be given. The fines and penalties haven't changed. The difference is that prior to this, because of a loophole in the law, people could drive and take photos and videos without being penalised.

When the penalties were set at this level in 2017, we conducted a Twitter poll to find out what people thought of the increase in penalties. At the time, many favoured the changes and almost one third (32%) thought that the revised penalties should be higher. Now that the laws are stricter, hopefully the aim of protecting the safety of every road user is one step nearer to being fulfilled.

It's all too easy to get distracted when using a mobile phone. Another one of our surveys showed that half of the respondents acknowledged and were aware of the dangers of using a phone while walking or driving. However unlike in Yamato City, near Tokyo, where pedestrians are banned from using their mobiles, the practice is legal in the UK.

In general, people are used to quieter streets with less traffic. They're not necessarily used to looking up from their phone when walking, or to look left and right when crossing a road. The move out of lockdown may also bring with it other changes that need to be considered. For example, are the roads set to return to pre-Covid usage and what does this mean for all road users?

In conclusion

As we make the shift from pre to post pandemic road usage, it's clear that the onus lies on all road users - not just those that are subject to new driving laws - to get grips with whatever preferred mode of transport we opt for and to be more aware of how we keep ourselves and others safe on the roads.

If you are one of the many drivers that is making the most of the extra driving freedoms that we now have, be sure to familiarise yourself with the latest driving guidelines and to familiarise yourself with the new driving laws.

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