Whether you’re a motorist, cyclist, pedestrian, or even a horse rider, you must keep up-to-date with Highway Code changes and new driving laws.
The Highway Code provides vital information, advice, guidelines, and rules for the safe and legal use of UK roads.
New driving laws for 2023 see the expansion of the ULEZ (Ultra Low Emission Zone), the return of certain duties and levies, financial concessions for electric car owners, and special consideration for the environment.
Let’s explore eight new traffic rules for 2023 and what they mean for you.
What are the new driving laws in the UK for 2023?
1. ULEZ expansion from 29 August 2023.
The Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) operating in central London will soon expand to cover all boroughs.
The ULEZ was created to help improve the poor air quality in London, caused in the main by highly polluting vehicles. The ULEZ operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week, every day of the year (except for Christmas Day on the 25th of December).
To encourage commuters to make use of greener travel alternatives such as public transport, cars which don’t meet the ULEZ emission standards need to pay a daily £12.50 charge to drive within the zone. This includes those who live and drive within the zone.
This expansion will affect thousands of drivers. You can use Transport for London’s vehicle checker to check whether your car meets the ULEZ emission standards.
2. TfL Scrappage scheme announced from 30 January 2023.
Transport for London has put a new £110m scrappage scheme into place to assist eligible Londoners in scrapping their non-compliant vehicles in preparation for the ULEZ expansion.
According to TfL.gov.uk, the scrappage scheme aims to support Londoners on certain low-income or disability benefits and eligible micro businesses, sole traders and charities with a registered address in London.
Successful applicants will be provided with financial assistance to scrap or retrofit any vehicle that does not meet emission standards.
In addition, there are also ULEZ support offers available to all Londoners (whether scrappage scheme eligible or not). These offers include discounts on hire and subscription services on bikes, e-bikes, cargo bikes and e-scooters, as well as discounts on car clubs, rentals and car finance.
3. Fuel duty rates to rebound to previous levels from 23 March 2023
Due to the increasing price of fuel and the rise in the cost of living, fuel duty rates were reduced by 5p for a year in March 2022.
From March 23, 2023, they will return to normal with the possibility of a further increase.
4. Benefit in Kind (BiK) to remain stable until 2025
Employees who enjoy benefits over and above their salaries are said to receive benefits in kind. This includes company cars used for private purposes, including as a means of commuting.
Company car tax is then paid by the employees via salary sacrifice — i.e. the tax is deducted by the company from the employees’ wages.
This tax is calculated on the car’s value, the type of fuel it uses and its CO2 emissions. A petrol car emitting 100 g/km emissions pays 25% BiK. Despite the steady increase of BiK over the last ten years, the UK government has announced that BiK contributions will remain stable until April 2025.
It’s hoped that this suspension of BiK increases will lead to employees choosing electric cars over their petrol and diesel counterparts, moving towards the 2030 ban on selling all petrol and diesel cars in the UK.
5. New number plates released
Number plates for newly manufactured vehicles change biannually, once on the 1st of March and then again on the 1st of September.
This means that from March, new vehicles will be registered under the ‘23’ registration plate. September will see new cars registered under the ‘73’ registration plate.
6. Electric car owners will benefit from 0% Vehicle Excise Duty (VED) until 2025.
Electric car owners will continue to have the advantage of 0% VED (Vehicle Excise Duty, otherwise known as “road tax”) for a further two years.
From April 2025, however, the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency’s (DLVA) new driving laws will mean that electric cars registered before the 1st of April 2017 will have to start paying Vehicle Excise Duty.
Those electric vehicles registered after April 2025 will remain in the lowest tax bracket for the first year, which amounts to £10. After this date, they’ll move up to the standard annual rate, currently paid by petrol and diesel cars (£165 at the time of writing).
According to gov.uk, The Expensive Car Supplement (ECS) exemption for electric vehicles is also due to end in 2025. Zero emission cars, with a list price of £40,000 or more, registered on or after the 1st of April 2025, will be required to pay this ECS.
Fueled vehicles and hybrids will also no longer qualify for the £10 discount on their VED.
7. Heavy goods vehicles (HGV) levy to be reinstated in August 2023
The pandemic saw the suspension of the HGV levy until July 2023. This levy applies to all heavy goods vehicles weighing more than 12 tonnes and is charged for the wear and tear on the roads.
As of August 2023, however, the levy will be reinstated, and freight companies will once more be responsible for paying the HGV charge.
8. Scotland’s ban on pavement parking expected to come into effect from 2023
The introduction of Scotland’s 2019 ban on parking on pavements and dropped kerbs was stalled by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Pending a final announcement, 2023 may be the year the ban finally comes into force.
Can you still use hands-free while driving?
One of the biggest concerns for motorists will no doubt be any changes around using their phones while driving.
In 2023, it remains entirely illegal to hold or use your phone, sat nav, tablet or any other device that can send or receive data while driving a car or riding a motorcycle. Resist the temptation to use your device even if stopped at traffic lights, queuing in traffic, or supervising a learner driver.
Motorists caught holding their devices while driving can face a £200 fine and six penalty points on their license. According to gov.uk, the only exception to using your phone in your car or motorbike is if you’re safely parked, making a contactless payment at a drive-through, or need to call 999 or 112 in an emergency.
Hands-free access is allowed, however, such as those operating with voice command, a Bluetooth headset, a windscreen mount, or built-in sat navs.
Keeping on the right side of this new legislation will help you avoid fines and penalty points and, most importantly, keep you and your fellow road users safe.
If you have more questions about the new driving laws, you can view the official 2023 version of The Highway Code here.