A number of changes were made to the Highway Code over the weekend (they came into effect on the 29thJanuary), marking some significant changes to the rules of the road.
Most of the changes are linked to four key areas:
- introducing a hierarchy of road users to ensure those who can do the greatest harm have the greatest responsibility to reduce the danger or threat they may pose to others
- clarifying existing rules on pedestrian priority on pavements to advise that drivers and riders should give way to pedestrians crossing or waiting to cross the road
- providing guidance on cyclist priority at junctions to advise drivers to give priority when travelling straight ahead
- establishing guidance on safe passing distances and speeds when overtaking cyclists and horse riders
What rule changes have been made to the Highway Code?
You can find the full wording changes which have been made to the Highway Code in this document. But some of the more significant changes include:
The introduction of the Hierarchy of Road Users concept.
Road users who are most at risk in the event of a collision are placed at the top of the hierarchy. Three new rules, H1, H2 and H3, clarify the hierarchy and set out guidance for road users. This includes the fact that:
- drivers, motorcyclist, cyclists, and horse riders must give way to pedestrians crossing or waiting to cross a road into which or from you are turning
The Highway Code is very clear that the hierarchy of road users’ concepts applies most to those in charge of vehicles which cause the greatest harm – large goods vehicles, passenger vehicles, vans, cars, and motorcycles.
Greater priority for cyclists
A number of rules have been introduced or amended for cyclists, giving cyclists priority over drivers.
- new rules 72 and 73 provide specific guidance around road positioning and junctions for cyclists
- drivers must leave at least 1.5m when overtaking cyclists at speeds of up to 30mph, and give them more space when overtaking at higher speeds
- to reduce the risk of hitting a cyclist when opening a car door, drivers are advised to open the door using your hand on the opposite side to the door you are opening; for example, use your left hand to open a door on your right-hand side. This will make you turn your head to look over your shoulder. This is known as the Dutch Reach
When do the changes to the Highway Code come into effect?
The Highway Code changes came into effect on the 29th January. Which means all road users will now need to abide by the most up to date rules.
Why have these changes been made to the Highway Code?
The government ran a consultation looking at proposed changes to the Highway Code in 2021. The aim of any changes being ‘to improve safety for pedestrians, particularly children, older adults and disabled people, cyclists and horse riders.’
Cycling and walking are both on the increase and the government is keen to push these ways of travelling. Not only to help people get fitter but also to have a positive impact on the environment and reduce the reliance on cars.
In reality, most of the changes being made are clarifications of existing rules but there is certainly a feeling from the media coverage that the changes are receiving, that motor vehicles are being penalised.
What impact will the changes have on drivers?
We blogged recently about how the Highway Code changes could impact the commercial motor market. And much of this remains true with regards to the hierarchy of road users.
Whilst the Highway Code changes are clear that the hierarchy of road users does not remove the need for everyone to behave responsibly, in the event of an accident more responsibility will be placed with those in charge of larger vehicles.
There is concern that many drivers just aren’t aware that these changes are being made. In fact, a recent survey by the AA suggested that 1 in 3 drivers were unaware of the changes being made to the Highway Code. But the fact is that drivers, motorcyclists, cyclists, and horse riders must now give more priority to pedestrians. The need for these road users to give way to pedestrians crossing or waiting to cross a road into which or from you are turning is proving controversial. And there is the possibility that confusion, driven by a lack of understanding or awareness, could lead to more accidents – something that none of us wants!
And of course, these changes all come at a time when many are avoiding high costs of public transport or have a desire to avoid crowded transportation due to the continued impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
If you are a driver, or if you employ people who drive for a living, make sure you educate yourself and your employees on these latest Highway Code changes. As a driver, managing risk to yourself and other road users is vital, and having a complete understanding of the rules of the road will be a part of this. Chat to our teams at Anthony Jones if you are looking to arrange any form of motor insurance – from a personal car insurance policy to a policy which covers a large fleet of vehicles. We are always happy to help.