DRIVINGS lessons will resume from Monday with tests back on 10 days later.
The government has confirmed the restart as part of its next step out of lockdown.
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Both lessons and tests had been on hold due to the pandemic, leaving thousands of learners in the lurch.
But the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency has confirmed Boris Johnson’s plan of action will see lessons and some tests return on April 12 in England and Wales.
This includes driving lessons with instructors, all theory tests, motorcycle tests, lorry lessons and tests, car and trailer tests, and minibus lessons and tests.
Driving tests and instructor qualifying tests will then resume on April 22.
Face coverings will have to be worn by instructors and learners, and the cars being used must be fully cleaned inside.
Vehicles must also have at least one window open on each side and both parties are urged to wear “suitable clothing for the weather”.
Test centres will have to make sure they are Covid-secure before opening up again to reduce the risk of spreading the virus, and some will remain closed where social distancing is not possible.
Industry bodies have welcomed the news and expect demand to be “high”.
Car insurance expert Alex Kindred, of Confused.com, said: “The announcement that learners will be able to re-start driving lessons and book tests is another step towards resuming some ‘normality’.”
The return coincides with a number of big changes for drivers which came into force from April 6 as the new tax year began.
From a rise in car tax to a clampdown on pollution, drivers should be aware of a number of new measures – some of which could hit your bank balance.
Here are eight things for drivers to look out for:
Vehicle Excise Duty (VED)
Vehicle Excise Duty (VED), known more commonly as car tax, rose from April 1.
It normally increases each year with inflation, and this year is no different.
What you pay depends on how much CO2 your car pumps out.
If your car was registered on or after April 1 2017, you have to pay the following for the first 12 months:
- You won’t have to pay anything if your car emits no CO2
- £10 if your car emits 1-50 grams per kilometre of CO2 (the same tax rate as last year).
- £25 if your car emits 51-75 grams per kilometre of CO2 (the same tax rate as last year
- £115 if your car emits 76-90 grams per kilometre of CO2 (£5 extra than last year)
- £140 if your car emits 91-100 grams per kilometre of CO2 (£5 extra than last year)
There are 13 pay brackets in total, and the highest you’ll be paying is £2,245 if your vehicle emits over 255g per kilometre of CO2, marking an increase of £70 since last year.
You can check out the full list in the table below and find out exactly how much you’ll be paying by using the gov.uk’s vehicle tax rates calculator.
In a bid to make British streets more eco-friendly, a new purchase tax has been proposed by the UK Energy Research Centre (UKERC) aimed at petrol and diesel car owners.
The purpose of the tax is to make environmentally-friendly vehicles more affordable.
Cars that emit more than 225g of CO2 per kilometre will be required to pay a 50% purchase tax from this year. This will increase in instalments.
The changes haven’t been confirmed and no details were released in this year’s Budget, but more information is expected later in the year.
Local clean air zone charges
This year, some cities will start to charge drivers commuting around the area in a bid to decrease the number of journeys made to lower pollution levels.
Motorists in several outer London boroughs, Bath, and Birmingham face an extra daily charge of between £8 and £100.
Birmingham’s scheme will charge drivers of the most polluting cars up to £8 per day, and £50 for HGVs (trucks and lorries), coaches and buses.
In Bath it will be £9 a day for non-compliant vans, taxis, private hire vehicles and minibuses, and £100 for larger vehicles – but there will be no charge for cars and motorbikes.
This year, you’ll be billed for driving in more areas in the city.
Currently, you have to pay £12.50 every day in London’s Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ).
From October this year, the ULEZ will expand from central London to cover up to the North Circular Road and the South Circular Road (although these roads aren’t included in the zone).
Mobile phone ban
This year will see strict new rules coming into place regarding mobile phones being used while driving.
Drivers will face fines of £200 and six penalty points on their licence for holding their mobile phone while driving – for any reason.
The new complete ban closes a loophole which allowed drivers to take photos or videos while driving without being penalised.
Cars could come with new technology that helps them drive automatically – by detecting lane markings – from spring this year.
Some vehicles can already detect lanes, but the Automated Lane Keeping System (ALKS) Regulation that was endorsed by the government in 2020 would allow cars to take over control from the driver.
Ways to cut down on your fuel costs
HERE are some tips on how you can slash the cost of fuel.
- Make your car more fuel-efficient. You can do this by keeping your tyres inflated, taking the roof rack off, emptying your car of clutter and turning off your air con when driving at lower speeds.
- Find the cheapest fuel prices. PetrolPrices.com and Confused.com allows you to search prices of UK petrol stations. All you need to do is enter in your postcode and tell it how far you want to travel (up to 20 miles).
- Drive more efficiently. Some ways to do this, include:
- Accelerate gradually without over-revving
- Always drive on the highest possible gear
- If you can, allow your car to slow down naturally as your brake is a money burner
- Re-starting your car is expensive, if you can keep moving
When activated, ALKS keeps a vehicle within its lane and controls its movements for extended periods of time, without the driver ever needing to do anything.
But unlike driverless cars, the driver must be ready and able to resume control when prompted by the vehicle.
Last year the government looked at whether it would be safe to use the technology on cars driving at speeds of 70mph.
‘Benefit in Kind’
Benefit in Kind rates may be reintroduced this year after they were scrapped in 2020.
From April 1, some drivers needed to start paying up to £390 per year to use their vehicles.
Initially, it is a 1% charge, based on income and vehicle value, but it is likely to rise to 2% in 2022.
Fuel duty freeze
Fuel duty once again will be frozen for the new tax year, keeping at the same rate for the tenth year in a row.
Fuel duty is a tax on fuel and will stay at 57.95p per litre of petrol, diesel, biodiesel and bioethanol.
Rishi Sunak faced calls in the run-up to the Budget to freeze or cut the hated tax.
An RAC poll showed nearly two thirds of drivers wanted the Chancellor to freeze or get rid of it, which would give a boost to those who have no choice but to drive and give a shot in the arm to the economy.
Pavement parking ban
Ministers are currently considering whether to extend London’s ban on parking on pavements to the rest of the UK.
This could mean rule-breakers face £70 fines.
It is not known when, or if, the rules will come into place, but last month a spokesperson for the DfT confirmed to The Sun Online that this is expected to be announced very soon.
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