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Clean Air Zones

Clean Air Zones: Why you should refresh your knowledge of motoring law

960 640 Stuart O'Brien

Clean Air Zones are appearing in a growing number of cities around the UK. If your vehicle does not meet emission standards, you’ll have to pay a daily charge if driving in the city centre. With active Clean Air Zones already underway in Bath, Birmingham, Bradford and Portsmouth, other cities like Bristol, Manchester, Sheffield and Newcastle are following suit, with staggered charges to be implemented from winter 2022.

UK drivers are encouraged to give their knowledge of the highway code a refresher – alongside the new Clean Air Zones, you could be caught out by the implementation of a couple of recently updated driving laws. Just 40% of Britons feel ‘very familiar’ or ‘fairly familiar’ with the highway code, though it’s important to ensure your knowledge is regularly updated.

Allan Hetherington, Head of Prestige Car Finance at Anglo Scottish Asset Finance, comments: “Many drivers are concerned about rule changes regarding Clean Air Zones because of the varying introduction dates and classes. But they’re also surprised to find their existing knowledge of motoring law isn’t up to scratch. There are plenty of driving nuances that could land you in hot water with the law, so we always recommend staying up to date with the latest law changes.”

Anglo Scottish Asset Finance, which worked with Bath and North East Somerset Council on its Clean Air Zone, has highlighted two new rule changes as well as some common areas where UK drivers may be likely to slip up.

Key points

  • Just 40% of Britons feel ‘very familiar’ or ‘fairly familiar’ with the highway code.
  • Failure to pay Clean Air Zone charges within 6 days of your journey could result in a penalty charge notice.
  • After an update to the mobile phone use law, drivers can no longer use their phone whilst driving for any purpose. Previously, drivers were not allowed to use their phone to communicate but were permitted to use it to change songs and other small tasks.
  • Contrary to common belief, eating or drinking behind the wheel is not illegal. However, if you’re deemed to not be in proper control of the car, you could receive a £100 fine and three penalty points.
  • Splashing a pedestrian with rainwater could net you a fine of up to £5,000 if you’re adjudged to be driving without proper consideration for others.
  • You could receive a fine of up to £1,000 in court if you’re caught paying with your phone whilst the car engine is running and handbrake is off.
  • You could receive a minimum of 10 points on your licence and a fine if you’re caught sleeping in your car whilst drunk.
  • Flashing your headlights to give way could result in a minimum fine of £30.

Clean air charges

Depending on your vehicle, you may be subject to charges whilst driving in one of the new zones. The rules of the new Clean Air Zones are in effect 24/7, 365 days a year, meaning drivers could easily be caught out during a late-night journey.

If your vehicle doesn’t meet the emission standards, you’ll be liable to pay the charge. There are four different classes of Clean Air Zone in your city – A, B, C, or D, and they determine the types of vehicles covered. Drivers should also be aware that, if eligible, they have six days to pay their charges, or they could receive a Penalty Charge Notice (PCN).

The new mobile phone laws

Communicating on a mobile phone at the wheel has been against motoring law for many years – drivers talking or texting on the phone while driving have long been subjected to £200 fines and six penalty points on their licence. However, until recently, drivers were permitted to use their phone for non-communication purposes, such as changing the song they were playing.

The new law stipulates that UK drivers may not use their phone whilst driving for any purpose. In order to use any unmounted handheld device behind the wheel, you must be parked with the engine switched off.

This means that you could even be in trouble if you use your phone to pay for a meal at the drive-thru. Any driver caught using their phone whilst driving could then receive a further fine of up to £1,000 in court, so you could end up with a VERY expensive Big Mac if you’re not careful!

Eating and drinking at the wheel

The actual act of eating or drinking whilst driving is not strictly illegal. However, if you’re distracted behind the wheel while enjoying a bite to eat and are spotted by officers, you could still be breaking the law. If they deem that you aren’t in proper control of the car, you could be on the receiving end of an on-the-spot fine of £100 and three penalty points.

Turning on a light in the car

At some point or another during your childhood, the chances are that you’ve turned on a light in the car, only to be scolded by your parents and told it’s illegal. Despite this long-held myth, there’s no law against driving with interior lights on. If the light is adjudged to be distracting for you or even other drivers, however, you may be charged with careless driving.

Splashing a pedestrian with rainwater

Ever driven through a deep puddle and drenched a pedestrian? Sometimes, avoiding a puddle might be impossible. However, if you’re deemed to have driven ‘without reasonable consideration for other persons,’ you could be in (hot) water yourself. In that event, you could face a fine from £100 up to an eye-watering £5,000.

Smoking in the car

Smoking in a car on your own, or in a car full of adults, is not illegal. However, if there are any under-18s in the car with you, smoking is not permitted and has been illegal since 2015. Offenders could be punished with a £50 fine and five points on their licence – even if it’s one of your passengers who is smoking with a child in the car.

Driving in incorrect footwear

Did you know that certain types of footwear are prohibited behind the wheel? Though it’s not against the law, Rule 97 of the Highway Code states that ‘the footwear and clothing you wear whilst driving must not prevent you from using the controls in the correct manner.’ This means any footwear without a closed back or strap could earn you a £100 fine, as they could slide off your feet or get stuck under the brake pedal – so no flip-flops!

Improper use of the hard shoulder

When you’re stuck in standstill traffic on the motorway, the hard shoulder could look like a great way to get around. However, since March 2018, this has been a finable offence. With fixed charges of £100 and three penalty points to be dished out for hard shoulder users, don’t get caught out!

Sleeping in the car whilst drunk

You’ve had a few too many and – correctly – decide that driving would be far too dangerous. Probably best to sleep in the car and drive home in the morning when you’ve sobered up, right? Wrong. The law states that whoever is in charge of a vehicle should not be inebriated, and police have often classed sleeping owners as being ‘in charge.’ You could therefore receive 10 points on your licence and a substantial fine.

Flashing your lights to give way

You see it daily on the road – a driver flashing their lights to allow another driver through, or to allow a pedestrian to cross the road. Many of us see this as a polite and helpful gesture, but you aren’t legally allowed to do this – you could encourage someone to make a manoeuvre when it isn’t safe. Using your headlamps in this way could carry a minimum fine of £30.

So, how many of these infractions were you aware of? And how many have you managed to avoid doing so far? It’s always worth giving your knowledge of the road a refresh from time to time to ensure that you are driving as safely as possible for yourself and the other drivers on the road.

Clean Air Zones to impact 40% of businesses, research shows

960 640 Stuart O'Brien

More than four out of 10 businesses (43%) believe they will be affected by the introduction of Clean Air Zones (CAZ) across the UK and the Ultra-Low Emissions Zone (ULEZ) in London, 

The findings stem from the 2020 Arval Mobility Observatory, which gains insights into fleet and mobility trends across the UK and Europe through a wide ranging set of questions.

It also asked respondents how they will react to the introduction of CAZs and the ULEZ. In total, 76% said they will replace vehicles to meet the new standards, 27% will find other types of transportation to allow them to continue doing business within the zones, and 27% will make no changes, accepting the impact and cost.

Shaun Sadlier, Head of Arval Mobility Observatory in the UK, said: “These results indicate the ways in which fleets are planning to manage the introduction of the new zones across the country although, of course, many have now been delayed by the coronavirus crisis.

“Overall, more than four out of 10 believe they will be affected and, of these, around three out of four plan to meet the challenge by operating vehicles that meet whatever new regulations are being introduced.

“To us, this is unsurprising. In most places, the introduction of CAZs are really designed to remove vehicles that use older, less clean emissions technology from cities. The truth is that because the regulations are relatively straightforward, many fleets are already compliant. Over the next couple of years, just through normal, planned replacement of vehicles, most should meet the regulations.

“It’s also thought-provoking to see that around a quarter are planning to use alternative modes of transport. It would be fascinating to know what these are, especially whether some fleets are going to be able to make a switch into public transport or other mobility options.”

Third of fleets impacted by Clean Air Zones

960 640 Stuart O'Brien

More than one-third of fleets (35%) expect to be impacted by the introduction of Clean Air Zones and the London Ultra Low Emissions Zone.

In response, fleet and mobility managers questioned envisage a range of actions – 20% plan to replace their current vehicles with those that meet the standards of each zone, 13% to make no changes and accept the impact on their fleets and 12% to seek other methods of transportation within the zones.

That’s according to new research from Arval, though it says there is some difference in actions considered depending on the size of the businesses involved. For example, when looking at which fleets plan to replace their cars and vans, there is quite a wide variance – 25% of businesses with more than 1,000 employees, compared to 22% of those with 100-999 employees, 19% of 10-99 employees and 16% with fewer than 10 employees.

The findings come from the 2019 edition of Arval Mobility Observatory, which covers 3,930 fleets and asks a wide ranging set of questions about fleet and mobility trends.

The research also looked at the potential impact of any planned new toll roads being built in the UK and their likely use by fleets. In total, 51% said they would encourage their drivers to use the tolls and reclaim the cost while 26% considered it the responsibility of the driver to choose whether to use tolls at their own expense.

Again, there is quite a wide difference in attitudes among organisations of varying sizes, with almost twice as many businesses with more than 1,000 employees (35%) considering it up to drivers to pay for tolls than those with fewer than 10 employees (18%), who in turn are more likely to reimburse their drivers (59%) than their larger counterparts (45%).

Shaun Sadlier, Head of Arval Mobility Observatory in the UK, said: “There has been quite a lot of debate around the likely impact of Clean Air Zones and the Ultra Low Emissions Zone, with some criticism that they don’t go far enough in enforcing low emissions standards.

“However, this research indicates that they are likely to change the behaviour of a relatively large number of businesses, whether that means operating greener vehicles or changing their transport options within the zone.”

He added that the attitudes that fleets have revealed towards toll roads were also interesting.

“This shows that more than half of businesses questioned would actively pay for tolls, presumably in the expectation that they are reasonably priced and will help to make their transport faster and more efficient.

“For us, this is further evidence of the concern that employers have about the impact of congestion on their operations, something that is seen elsewhere in our research.”

Image by Andreas Lischka from Pixabay