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Smoking in Cars - New Law Applies from 1 October 2015

From 1 October 2015 it will be illegal to smoke in a vehicle with anyone under 18 present.

The law is changing to protect children and young people from the dangers of secondhand smoke.
Find out more at www.gov.uk/smokefreecars.

Driving Licence Changes from 8 June 2015

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The DVLA has announced that the paper counterpart of the photocard driving licence has been discontinued and that drivers should destroy it, as evidence of driving convictions will now be held online, saving 8 million per year.  Here's our Chairman's take on the change:

The DVLA is scrapping the paper driving licence - but the RAC estimates that 55% of people don't know the change is happening or what it means.

What is happening?
From June 8 2015, the DVLA will no longer issue the green paper counterpart licence, and existing counterparts will no longer be valid.

The what?
The paper counterpart displays details not included on the photocard, including vehicle categories, endorsements or penalty points.  From June 8, details of driving convictions will only be held on the DVLA's digital records.

The changes - made as part of the government's Red Tape Challenge - are expected to save £8 million.  Justine Greening, transport secretary at the time the change was announced, said: "Motorists shouldn't have to keep numerous bits of paper - we live in a digital age."

Should I destroy my paper counterpart?
The DVLA recommends that drivers destroy their paper counterpart after June 8.  However, the AA says it's better to keep hold of it, as you might be asked for it when travelling abroad or renting a car.
The British Vehicle Rental and Leasing Association (BVRLA) says: "Due to the short notice provided by the DVLA and the need to thoroughly test the new system, many car rental companies are still finalising their plans for the UK and abroad," it said.

What do drivers need to do?
You only have an old-style paper driving licence, don't destroy it.  If and when you need to change any details, you will be issued with a new photocard free of charge.  Otherwise, use the paper licence.  If you have a photocard, you must remember to renew it when necessary.

What if I want to rent a car?
Car rental companies will be able to view your details on the electronic database (see the DVLA video below).  Employers who need to check an employee's driving record will also be able to use the service.

How does that work?
To allow other people access to your record, you will need to log on to the 'share driving licence online' service, with your full licence number, your National Insurance number and your postcode.  This will generate a single-use access code that you can give the car hire company or your employer.  The car hire firm enters the check code, along with several of the letters and digits from your licence number, in order to view your whole licence.  The access code is valid for 21 days (originally 72 hours but now amended by DVLA).  If you're not online, you will be able to call the DVLA and give permission for your driving record to be checked verbally.

If you have any problems generating a Share Driving Licence code online, call the DVLA on 0300 083 0013 to be given a code over the phone for free.  This phone number is available Monday to Friday from 8am to 7pm and on Saturday from 8am to 2pm.

The BBC News website has an article about the changes here.

The DVLA has produced a step-by-step guide here.

The British Vehicle Rental and Leasing Association has produced a consumer guide to the changes here.

New laws covering drug use

From March 2015, there is a new offence of driving while over the prescribed limit of certain drugs.  For the first time ever limits have been set for illegal drugs including heroin, cocaine, LSD and cannabis as well as a number of medicinal drugs including morphine and methadone.

The new procedure will bring detection of drug driving into line with the widely understood drink driving enforcement procedure.  Police will no longer need to prove that driving was impaired.  They will simply obtain a blood sample and show that any of the specified drugs are present above the prescribed limit.

Roadside drugalysers (or an impairment test) can be used in the first instance to test drivers - all this is broadly similar to the way drink/driving processes have operated in the past.

The UK Government website GOV.UK has full details here.

Warrington roadworks

Details of roadworks in the Warrington area are on the WBC website at http://www.warrington.gov.uk/info/200525/roadworks/783/roadworks

Runcorn-Widnes Silver Jubilee Bridge (A553/A557)

sjb_200 (6K)You can check the state of the traffic over this notorious local bottleneck via the six live webcams covering the bridge and its approaches on both the Runcorn and Widnes sides of the river.  Here's the link: www3.halton.gov.uk/Pages/traffic/Bridge-Cameras.aspx.

New Mersey Crossing at Runcorn & Widnes

merseygateway (11K)The £600m scheme to build a new bridge across the River Mersey between Runcorn and Widnes, replacing the Silver Jubilee Bridge built in 1961, the source of endless congestion in the area, is making progress.  Although it will be a toll bridge, it won't have toll booths, instead collecting the tolls electronically via number-plate recognition cameras.  Halton residents will get free crossing but not those from Warrington.

Update: There is now talk of free passes for residents of Warrington and Cheshire.  See the BBC News item here.

The new bridge is expected to open in Autumn 2017.  More information on the project at the Mersey Crossing website: www.merseygateway.co.uk/

Driving Licence counterpart scrapped

From 8 June 2015, the photocard licence counterpart will not be valid and will no longer be issued by DVLA.  You can find out more about about the change at www.gov.uk/dvla/nomorecounterpart.

Tax disc scrapped

taxdisc (71K)The legal requirement to display the paper tax disc in the corner of the windscreen was scrapped in October 2014.  It's been around for 93 years but modern technology has rendered it obsolete.  The bad news is that we still have to pay the tax but it can now be paid by monthly direct debit, although this carries a 5% surcharge.  Here's the article on the BBC News website.

Tighter MOT Tests

mot-sign (6K)The annual MOT test for cars became much stricter in 2013, in line with EU law.  Additional items such as warning lights, engine mountings and airbags are now included in the test and can lead to a failure if found to be faulty.  VOSA, the UK Vehicle and Operator Services Agency, has published an explanatory document at www.dft.gov.uk/vosa/newsandevents/pressreleases/2013pressreleases/04-03-2013-changestoannualvehicletesting.htm.

Here's the full list:

Are you wasting fuel?

quentin_willson (3K)Carrying clutter in the boot is costing you money - that's the message from YouGov and Shell, who have carried out research into what we keep in the boots of our cars.  A third (32%) usually keep more than five items in the car boot.  The top five currently on the roads of Britain are: tools (43%); wellington boots and outdoor clothing (27%); gym bag, sports equipment and golf clubs (11%); pushchair/baby equipment (9%) and multiple pairs of shoes (9%).  Quentin Willson, the knowledgeable motoring journalist, has been appointed as Shell's FuelSave ambassador to persuade us to clear out the boot.  You can read the article on the Daily Telegraph website at www.telegraph.co.uk/motoring/news/9596918/Clutter-in-the-boot-wastes-fuel.html.

Planning a European trip? Don't get caught out by foreign motoring laws.

We may be in Europe, but the rules of the road can differ wildly from country to country.  There's a useful summary here on the Daily Telegraph website.  Here's a sample - did you know it's compulsory to carry a breathalyser kit when driving in France?

Driving Licence changes

driving_licence (21K)The DVLA has announced changes to driving licence rules which will affect people who change their driving licence or pass a driving test after 19 January 2013.  Motorcycles and mopeds have new categories and age rules.  Car drivers have new rules for towing trailers and caravans.  Licences for minibuses, buses and trucks will last 5 years.  Age restrictions on driving vehicles have been revised and finally, the design of the driving licence itself has changed.  You can read the details (and there are lots of details) on the GOV.UK website (which replaced the DirectGov website) at www.gov.uk/changes-to-the-driving-licence-and-categories.Holders of existing licences are also affected by changes to vehicle categories.  Existing licence holders may also be affected by recent changes.  You can check whether your licence still covers the vehicle(s) you drive at www.gov.uk/old-driving-licence-categories.

Highway Code app

The government has announced the introduction of an interactive Highway Code app for smartphones.  It's only available for Apple iOS devices (iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch, etc.) and it costs 3.99.  (Can't see many people spending that on an app! - Ed) No mention of Android.  You can read the press release here.  Alternatively you can access the Highway Code online free of charge at www.gov.uk/highway-code/contents.

Classic and historic cars to be exempted from the annual MOT test

The government has announced that cars made before 1960 will no longer be required to undergo an annual MOT test.  The Roads Minister, Mike Penning, said: "Owners of classic cars and motorbikes tend to be enthusiasts who maintain their vehicles well - they don't need to be told to look after them, they're out there in all weathers checking the condition of the engine, tyres and bodywork.".  The exemption came into effect from 18 November 2012.

New tyre efficiency labels

tyre_label (8K)New European regulations have made it compulsory for all new tyres to have labels giving their performance in three important areas: fuel economy, wet grip and noise.  The labels will be similar to those already in use on household appliances, giving ratings from A (best) to G (worst) for rolling resistance (linked to fuel economy) and wet braking performance plus a tyre noise reading in decibels (dB).  The legislation came into effect on 1 November 2012.  More links to this story:
  Michelin     Dunlop     Continental     Goodyear     Pirelli     Wikipedia  

Car park of the future at The Cube

The BBC has visited the new automated 339-space multi-storey car park in Birmingham which parks your car for you.  Click here to watch the news item and video.

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