Driving laws can change quite frequently, as the government continually tries to find new ways to make our roads safer for motorists, cyclists and pedestrians. And if you’re not aware of new rules when they come into force, you can find yourself with a fixed penalty fine plus points on your licence, which can push up the cost of your car insurance.  So to help prevent you from getting a fine, stay safe and stay legal, here’s a heads-up on some changes that are on the way.

New speeding penalties

On 24th April new speeding penalties will come into effect, enabling magistrates in England and Wales to impose stricter sentencing and higher fines. For most speeding offences, there will be three levels of sentencing. The first level will attract a fine plus 3 penalty points. The second level will mean a fine plus either 4 - 6 points or disqualification for between 7 to 28 days. And the third level will mean a larger fine plus either 6 points or a disqualification of between 7 to 56 days.

Magistrates will also have the power to impose tougher penalties if there are any “aggravating” circumstances, such as an offence committed close to a school, near pedestrians, or in poor driving conditions.

Mobile phone use

The government is also in the process of increasing penalties for drivers using a mobile phone. Using a hand-held mobile phone at the wheel is already an offence, and drivers caught breaking the law will soon see the fixed penalty go up from £100 to £200, together with an increase in licence endorsement from 3 points to 6. More serious phone-related offences, such as dangerous driving, can incur larger fines plus disqualification and up to 2 years imprisonment.

Drivers should remember that the rules on mobile phones apply even when sitting stationary at a junction or waiting at a red light. In fact, the government’s road safety organisation THINK! recommends switching your mobile phone off before you drive, because all phone calls distract attention from the road, even on a hands-free phone.

Hands-free phones and sat navs

While hands-free phones are permitted, drivers should be wary of how they use them.  The law states that you must remain in control of your vehicle at all times, and this extends to the use of both hands-free phones and other devices such as sat navs. So think twice before tinkering with your phone or your sat nav while driving. It’s not only potentially hazardous both to you and other road users, it could also land you with a large fine.