What the government plans to do with UK motoring laws

Published on 18 September 2015 by Gill

Britain’s motoring laws are set for their biggest change since the driving test was introduced in 1935.

The Independent on Sunday published details from a draft of a consultation document prepared by The Department for Transport (DfT), due to be published in October.

Changes include the closing of test centres, part-privatising the practical exam, upping the age limit for licence renewal and increasing fees for motoring services.

More tests but fewer test centres?

test centre imageThe main focus for ministers is believed to be the driving test pass rate, which stands at below 50 percent. The report states evidence suggests learners are booking tests too early – due to fears they’ll have to wait a long time to take the test – and subsequently failing.

A lack of examiners means budding drivers now have to wait on average eight weeks for their test, two weeks longer than the government target.

DfT proposes the introduction of more flexible driving test slots, including more evening and weekend appointments, and examiners would be asked to take photos of the drivers as soon as they pass, so licences can be processed quicker.

However, driving test centres could be closed to cut costs and free up land for housing, while the DVSA and DVLA contact centres’ finance, estates management and human resources departments could be merged leading to loss of jobs.

This comes while the DfT is conducting trials into a new driving test that features 20 minutes of independent driving following a sat-nav. Further to this, the age limit for when a driver must declare themselves fit to drive could be raised from 70 to 75 to cut administration costs.

A DfT spokesman told the newspaper: “We are currently considering options for developing the motoring services agencies and will consult later in the year. We cannot at this stage comment on the detail.”

Other regulations

Meanwhile, regulations that have changed driving licences, drug-drive limits and speed limits have already been introduced. There are, however, other changes expected to take place later in the year.

In March a new law on driving under the influence of legal or illegal drugs – including cannabis, cocaine and prescription drugs including diazepam, methadone and morphine – came into force across England and Wales.

In April, the speed limit for the largest heavy goods vehicles (HGVs) travelling on a single carriageway across England and Wales increased from 40mph to 50mph, and on a dual carriageway it increased from 50mph to 60mph.

The government also launched the ‘Make a Plea’ service in March, which enables motorists charged with minor motoring offences (including speeding or using a vehicle without insurance) to respond to the charges made against them digitally.

The Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) paper counterpart of the photo card was scrapped on 8 June, in which all driver information such as endorsements and which category of vehicles you are entitled to drive is stored electronically – the changes have allowed motorists to access information remotely.

A new scheme in London has been introduced since 1 September, which ensures all lorries and construction vehicles over 3.5 tonnes are fitted with basic safety equipment aimed to tackle the number of fatal collisions involving cyclists and pedestrians. The scheme will run 24 hours a day across the city and any drivers found in charge of a non-compliant vehicle may be issued with a £50 penalty notice and a potential £1,000 fine at the Magistrates Court.

Upcoming changes to driving laws will also see smoking in cars carrying children under the age of 18 becoming illegal from 1 October. Potential fines and penalties are expected to be announced closer to the time.

Click here for The Independent on Sunday article.