Changes to expect on UK roads in 2017
If last year was anything to go by, then 2017 is set to be another unpredictable one, with a great deal of unexpected change set to keep us all on our toes.
Whilst potential changes on the roads may not be at the forefront of many of our minds, amendments to the existing rules, regulations and trends affect all of us who rely on our cars to keep us moving throughout the year.
We can never be sure exactly what the year ahead will hold but, when it comes to developments on the country’s roads, listening to those in the know will help you stay ahead of the game.
We’ve spoken to some of the most knowledgeable folks in the sector about what they think the most important upcoming changes that will come into effect over the next year will be, and how they could alter things for all of us who get behind the wheel on a daily basis.
From the driving test to emissions tests, the experts expect a lot to be different in 12 months’ time.
Foxy Lady Drivers Club
Steph Savill, MD at FOXY Lady Drivers Club – the UK’s only membership drivers’ club for women – believes that predicting exactly what may change for motorists during the next year is difficult, partly due to just how much potential for change there is! Unsurprisingly, the ‘B word’ gets a mention: ‘My crystal ball is particularly foggy this year, and it’s not just the weather. There’s a lot of uncertainty out there, including Brexit. Let’s hope our combined UK and EU country governments can reach the right conclusion about future car sales and trade deals, without one losing face or sales.’
The FOXY Lady Drivers Club also believes that, as in most other areas of our lives, ‘smart’ technology will start to play a bigger role when it comes to driving (‘there’s talk of more autonomous cars and Wi-Fi enabled technology’). And whilst the potential for truly smart cars making things easier for us is enormous, Steph has a word of caution: ‘[This is] clearly the start of cars knowing where each other are, but if they become WiFi enabled centres for passengers, could this affect driver concentration?’
Other changes which will definitely be happening involve driving lessons and Vehicle Excise Duty (VED). ‘On a more mundane level, I definitely welcome the sight of learner drivers on motorways because pupils need this experience before taking their test’, Steph notes. ‘But the new VED rates in April, added to recent insurance price rises, will undoubtedly make new car buyers a lot more cautious about running costs than before. Unless you drive an emissions-free car you’ll pay the same £140 VED a year regardless of CO2 emissions, but if your new car is worth £40,000 or more you’ll be charged an extra £310 a year for the first five years of ownership. Ouch.’
From the perspective of FOXY Lady Drivers Club members, however, there is some good news on the horizon for dealerships who treat all of their customers with the same levels of respect regardless of gender, such as our outlets selling new and used cars in Dorset. ‘There is one change I really hope to see affecting our roads in 2017 – confirmation that there are more women drivers on them than men. This has been on the cards for a while and I hope it’ll wake up dealerships with a bump to the reality that men and women have different needs and expectations when it comes to their car and shopping choices’.
As Steph explains, the rewards for offering their female customer base excellent levels of service will be significant for dealerships: ‘For sure, the genuinely female-friendly services and dealers will win her business over lacklustre others. We live in interesting motoring times’.
Looking at things from a different angle is Lem Bingley, the editor of low-CO2, electric and hybrid car news site, GreenMotor. Despite the aforementioned changes in VED rates seemingly downgrading the importance of emissions levels, Lem believes that a new CO2 test will go some way towards improvements in tracking their accuracy and, as a result, the accountability of carmakers.
‘I think the most important change coming in 2017 will be the end of the pretty much useless New European Driving Cycle (NEDC), the test currently used for measuring official CO2 emissions and fuel consumption figures’, Lem says. He goes on to explain that ‘the ‘New’ label in the name is a misnomer, as the procedure is well past its sell-by date.’
Lem notes that from September of this year, we will see ‘the start of a phasing out process whereby new models will adopt a different and more stringent test, called the Worldwide Harmonised Light Vehicle Test Procedure (WLTP). Most cars will achieve worse scores under the new test, but the figures will be a step closer to the results achieved by average motorists on real roads’.
According to GreenMotor, this change will – certainly in the long term – be of great benefit to drivers, responsible manufacturers and, of course, the environment. ‘The new procedure is intrinsically tougher but will also close off a lot of loopholes in the tests that the manufacturers have been able to exploit to achieve unrealistically high economy figures. This is quite apart from the ‘dieselgate’ scandal, where the rules of the tests were deliberately broken.’
As Lem explains, there is still some way to go until the tests used are completely accurate, but the impending changes are a positive development: ‘The European WLTP results will still not be as realistic as the American EPA tests, but the upcoming change represents a big step in the right direction’.
Learners being able to take to the motorways isn’t the only way in which teaching the next generation of drivers will change in 2017. Adam Tudor-Lane of car news and reviews site Carwitter goes into details about how the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency have ‘devised and tweaked the UK driving test’.
‘Luckily the price will remain the same’ says Adam, ‘but learners can now be expected to drive independently for 20 minutes, as opposed to 10. During the test the examiner will ask one of the two ‘show me, tell me’ questions on how to operate the vehicle; this could be turning on the heated windscreen, or using the washers. You could also be asked to drive following a Sat Nav for a certain amount of time’.
If you have been driving for years and are feeling like the test you took is a million miles away from what it is now becoming, get ready for even more changes! As Adam explains, ‘reversing around a corner and turning in the road have been culled, replaced by ‘real life’ manoeuvres that better reflect everyday driving, such as bay parking and pulling up at the side of the road before re-joining traffic’
Adam also acknowledges the advent of learners being allowed to drive on motorways, ‘as long as the car has dual controls and you are with an ADI approved instructor. Normally, motorway and night driving are only included with Pass Plus’.
According to the Carwitter editor, the Pass Plus practical training scheme is worth its weight in gold and ‘arguably should be a mandatory course to be completed within six months of passing. Pass Plus is well worth the money – it gives you far greater experience and helps lower your car insurance, normally by at least the price of the test’.
As you can see, there are plenty of upcoming changes to our roads for you to be aware of in 2017, and the above is by no means an exhaustive list! Be sure to keep checking our news pages in the weeks and months to come for regular updates on the latest developments within Ford and the wider motoring world.