6 new driving laws that you need to know about
1. Drug driving limits
Since March 2015, there have been official drink drive limits on a list of illegal and prescription drugs. Police can now do an oral swab at the side of the road and follow up with another test at a police station if you test over the limit for any of the drugs.
This doesn't mean other drugs are OK - you can still be arrested for dangerous driving if you're impaired by a substance not on this list.
2. Paper counterpart and new digital code
That silly bit of paper you had to ransack your room for the night before your driving test is GONE. Thank goodness. In its place came a new digital code that you have to give to employers, insurers of car hire firms so they can check your licence for points or convictions.
At first this code was only valid for 72 hours after you'd generated it online but now it's good for 21 days which is a huge improvement - especially if you're hiking through southern Italy for 2 weeks before you pick up the car you booked.
3. Smoking in cars with kids
This one hasn't come in yet but from October 1 2015, smoking in a car with anyone under 16 will be illegal and will carry a £50 fine.
4. No more left over tax when you buy a used car
This is a bummer. I'm looking for a car right now and there are still people saying 'taxed until April' in their listings. Contrary to what these folks think (or maybe want ME to think), tax no longer transfers between owners. It dies the minute ownership is handed over, so you have to get your own tax BEFORE you drive your new car away.
You can, however, tax the car online now. All you need is the V5C/2 (green slip) part of the car's logbook, which has a 12 digit number on it for you to put into the GOV.UK site, along with the car's registration. If you're buying a used car, you should be getting the previous owner to fill in this part of the logbook before you leave so you can send it off to the DVLA.
5. Make a plea against motoring offences online
It used to be super hard to fight a motoring conviction - like, you had to go to court to say you didn't do it. A sceptic would say this was so people didn't bother contesting a £50 fine and just paid up, whether they deserved it or not.
Now, you can enter a plea online, cutting down on time, cost and fuss. This is not only very, very useful if you feel you've been wrongly issued a fine - it's also good even if you definitely did deserve it. Entering a 'guilty' plea (and so saving everyone time and money) can get you a 33% reduction on your fine.
6. HGVs can now drive faster
Big lorries still have speed limits lower than regular vehicles but as of April 2015, they can drive 10mph faster than the previous limit: 50mph on single carriageways and 50mph on dual carriageways.
Why? Apparently it's to stop so many people doing risky overtakes out of frustration. HGVs are also way more capable of decent stopping distances now, due to better technology.
Make sure you're sure of the speed any vehicle is doing before you try to overtake them - especially if you're driving a 1 litre and they're in charge of a 40-tonne monster.