New number plate laws coming into force from 1 September will change the legal standard for cars in Britain and leave drivers facing fines of up to £1,000 if they breach the rules.
The new regulations coincide with the change to the new ‘71’ registration mark and are designed to make it easier to catch drivers committing motoring offences.
From 1 September all new number plates fitting to cars have to comply with a new standard - BS AU 145e - which is designed to make plates more durable as well as making it easier for automatic number plate recognition (ANPR) cameras to pick up registration numbers.
The changes mean that any new plate must be made from a tougher material and be able to pass a new abrasion test to ensure they can withstand damage from road debris such as salt and grit.
They also set out new rules around the use of the increasingly popular 3D plates.
From 1 September, it is illegal to use a two-tone finish on number plates to create the effect of three-dimensional lettering.
Previously, plate makers could create the illusion of 3D characters by using different shades of black on flat lettering. However, the new rules state that all characters must be the same single shade of black.
Driving with a new plate that breaches these rules could see drivers hit with a fine of up to £1,000.
The change has been made to make it easier for ANPR cameras - which are used to enforce everything from speed limits to bus lane regulations - to read the plates. Shading affects the contrast between the lettering and reflective background, making it harder for the cameras to distinguish the characters.
However, the regulations only apply to plates created from 1 September onwards, so cars with existing two-tone “3D” plates can still use them.
Truly 3D and so-called 4D plates, where laser-cut acrylic characters are raised from the surface of the plate are also still legal as long as the characters are a single shade of black and conform to all other existing regulations around the reflectiveness of the plate and the font, size and spacing of the lettering.
Plates must now also carry the name, address and postcode of the supplier and manufacturer, also with the new BS AU 145e marking.
The new plates also incorporate a number of other recent changes.
Before Brexit, British licence plates featured the letters GB beneath the EU circle of stars on the left-hand side of the plate. Any car displaying this plate didn’t need an additional GB sticker when driving in Europe. Drivers could also display the St George’s Cross, Saltire or Red Dragon of Wales.
Since Brexit, new plates have featured the letters GB beneath a Union Flag and only cars bearing these plates have been exempt from displaying a GB sticker. From 28 September, 2021 the plate will change again to replace GB with UK, to include Northern Ireland.
Green number plates
As part of efforts to encourage drivers to adopt electric vehicles, the Government introduced green number plates in December 2020. It said that by making zero-emissions vehicles easier to identify, owners would be able to benefit from more incentives such as free parking and free access to clean air zones.
These are now fitted as standard to EVs unless the owner requests otherwise, and feature a green stripe down the left-hand side of the plate.
Historic black and silver plates
From January 2021, the DVLA tightened the rules around old-fashioned black and silver number plates.
Since the start of the year only vehicles manufactured before 1 January 1980 or which fall into the “historic” tax class are allowed to carry silver-on-black plates. Any car built after 1 January 1980 must carry black-on-white front and black-on-yellow rear plates.