While the pandemic has consumed everyone’s attention over the past few months, it hasn’t stopped the government from proposing new rules and laws that if implemented, will effect how we drive for years to come.

Here are some of the biggest changes that could be coming to a road near you soon:

Motorway speed limits lowered

With a stated aim of reducing emissions and pollution, the speed limit is being dropped from 70 to 60mph on four stretches of Britain’s most polluted motorways.

Lowering the speed limit by 10mph for the next 12-15 months, Highways England will assess if the speed restriction drives down emission levels in the surrounding areas.

If the approach is shown to work, then expect the new speed limit to remain in place on the four motorways with the scheme potentially rolled out to other motorways across the country.

The motorways subject to the new speed limit are:

  • M1 (between junction 34 and 33)
  • M5 (between junctions 1 and 2)
  • M6 (between junctions 6 and 7)
  • M602 (between junctions 1 and 3).

The new restriction will be in place 24 hours a day. If you break the 60mph limit, you can expect three points on your licence and a £100 fine at the very least.

Life means life for dangerous drivers

If a driver kills when speeding, racing or using a phone, they could soon face a life sentence under new legislation that is being considered by the government. At the moment, the maximum sentence is 14 years for a single crime.

Killing someone through carless driving while under the influence of drugs or drink could also see life sentences being introduced. Expect more news on these potential changes next year.

“This government has been clear that punishments must fit the crime, but too often families tell us this isn’t the case with killer drivers.”

• Justice Secretary Robert Buckland.

Bus lane offenders given a break?

The government is considering dropping fines for motorists who drive in a bus lane – if it is the first time they have committed the offence. Instead of being landed with a fine up to £130,a warning letter would be sent instead.

If the motorist commits the same offence again, then the fine would be applied. This rule could also be applied to other ‘moving traffic violations’ including driving in a cycle lane and the misuse of yellow box junctions.

‘Alcolocks’ being considered for drink-drivers

To combat rising drink-driving figures, government road officials are considering the introduction of in-car ‘alcolocks’ for motorists who have been previously convicted of drink-driving.

This technology would require the driver to pass an in-car breath test before the engine is allowed to start.

The police could also receive new, more accurate roadside breathalysers that offer far greater accuracy than existing models.

Highway Code overhaul to protect vulnerable road users

Changes to the Highway Code are currently being considered with the aim of making walking and cycling safer.

To achieve this, a road user hierarchy could be adopted that sees vulnerable road users at the top with drivers at the bottom. In practise, this will mean priority must be given to folk cycling or walking over drivers, say, turning at a junction.

The proposals also want distances between cyclists and drivers property clarified when overtaking. If travelling under the 30mph, the motorist must leave a space of 1.5 metres between their vehicle and the cyclist. If travelling at over 30mph, this space will need to be at least 2 metres.

Larger vehicles such as trucks will need to maintain a 2-metre space at all times.

Finally, the thorny issue of cyclists riding two abreast or more could finally be resolved. While some road users still believe cyclists are not allowed to ride side by side, the opposite is in fact true.

With more clarity introduced into the Highway Code, the hope is for all road users to finally understand the rules of the road so cyclists can be safer when out and about.

• To take part in the Highway Code consultation, head here.

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Main image © West Midlands Police.