Several new laws and rule changes for motorists come into effect from this month.
Mobile phone ban
A loophole which allowed drivers to use devices at the wheel has been tightened up. From this month, you could be fined £200 fine and given six penalty points for holding your phone while driving. Drivers will still be able to use devices hands-free but watching videos and other uses not covered under the old telecommunications law have now been banned.
In the past, drivers have successfully argued that filming or taking photos while driving does not match the wording in the previous legislation - which said it is illegal to use a device "which performs an interactive communication" while driving.
In 2019, there were 637 casualties on Britain's roads - including 18 deaths and 135 serious injuries - in crashes where a driver using a mobile was a contributory factor.
The new ban will also apply when a vehicle is stationary at lights or in traffic.
Clean Air Zones
In Bath, Class C vehicles (vans, taxis, HGVs, buses, and coaches) are charged to enter the Clean Air Zone. A similar scheme is planned for Birmingham from 1st June and Bristol is preparing to follow.
Typical daily costs range from £9 for a private vehicle to £100 for a coach or HGV.
Increase in car tax (VED)
From this month, many drivers will see an increase in vehicle excise duty (VED), better known as car tax. It increases in line with inflation every year. The amount you pay is based on CO2 emissions – with more polluting vehicles paying more tax.
The 2021 increase is aimed at petrol and diesel car owners — in line with the Government’s mission to make environmentally friendly vehicles more attractive to motorists.
Benefit in Kind company car tax changes
Company cars have long been used as a method through which businesses reward and retain staff as an extra perk. However, this kind of incentive attracts a tax called Benefit-In-Kind (BiK). Company cars are considered an additional taxable benefit that falls outside of standard income tax.
Benefit-in-Kind tax rates are based on how much carbon dioxide (CO2) a car emits, and this year, many cars are being assessed under a different scheme (WLTP). This assessment uses stricter, more realistic criteria than the old NEDC tests. The result is higher BiK tax for many existing and new company cars owners.
Pure electric cars are not subject to any Benefit-in-Kind tax for 2020/21 – regardless of when the car was registered. In 2021/22 they will attract a BiK rate of only one per cent, and in 2022/23 just two per cent. This means company car drivers who choose an EV will save thousands compared with the driver of a comparable diesel or petrol car.