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Vulnerable Road Users: Law for HGV & Van Drivers

Jul 29, 2022

With an increase in vulnerable road users (cyclists, pedestrians) on UK roads for a variety of reasons, the rules of the road are changing to offer better protection for them.

From changes to the allowed use of mobile devices and technology whilst driving which now make it illegal to have a mobile device in your hand for any reason. Through to the introduction of a hierarchy of road users as part of an update to the Highway Code. We look at what the focus on vulnerable road users means for commercial vehicle drivers.

Changing rules of the road to protect vulnerable road users

The changes come at a time of a fundamental shift in road usage patterns. Initiated in part by the COVID-19 pandemic. As well as government policy and a desire to encourage the use of greener transport methods.

  • A wider spread of traffic across the day caused by working from home and changes to working patterns. Which means that busy periods are not necessarily confined to the same peak times we were previously used to
  • More commercial vehicles on the roads
  • More cyclists and pedestrians on the roads
  • We’re also seeing the introduction of e-scooters, which the expectation that these will become more widespread if private e-scooters are legalised for use on UK roads

Taken together we can see that the potential for commercial vehicles and vulnerable road users to encounter each other is on an upward trajectory. And one that is likely to continue to increase because of the transport decarbonisation plan in the UK.

Heightened responsibility for commercial vehicle drivers

There is no doubt that these changes increase the responsibility placed on commercial vehicle drivers (and drivers as a whole).

The introduction of the hierarchy of road users aims to ensure that those who can do the greatest harm have the greatest responsibility to reduce the danger or threat they may pose to others.

Whilst changes made to sentencing guidelines recently see drivers who commit certain offences (causing death by dangerous driving and causing death by careless driving when under the influence of drink and drugs) now facing the possibility of a life sentence. As well as the introduction of a new offence of causing serious injury by careless driving.  Further reflecting the desire to protect vulnerable road users and ensure accountability for those who fall below the expected standards for drivers.

It’s not hard to see how the hierarchy of road users could play into the liability and sentencing implications for commercial vehicle drivers.

Managing the risks to your drivers

As someone who employs people to drive for work, you need to take these changes seriously and ensure that risk management and keeping your drivers safe are your top priority.

You’ll want to consider areas such as

  • Journey/route planning – Aim for your drivers to avoid areas where the likelihood of contact with vulnerable road users is higher
  • Visibility of vehicle – If the above is not possible, then think about the vehicles which you are asking people to drive. Visibility will be key for drivers. Think about new technology such as vehicles which come with doors with more glass. Continually train your drivers on the importance of using mirrors correctly and frequently
  • In vehicle cameras – can aid driver training as well as providing evidence in the event of an accident
  • Driver awareness – make sure your drivers are aware of all the relevant safety measures which you have in place as a business. You’ll also want to train them on the most recent road rules and reflect these in your policies and procedures. Regularly refresh your drivers on the importance and methods in which they can protect vulnerable road users

What to do if you or your driver are involved in an accident

Whilst we all hope that it will never happen, there is the real possibility that one of your drivers could be involved in a serious road traffic accident. So, you need to think about this scenario and ensure that you can support your driver. It is also vital that your drivers know what is likely to happen to them as the involved driver and how to respond.

To protect your driver and your business, you must

  • educate drivers about the consequences of fatal road traffic collisions
  • educate them about the need for legal representation during a police interview
  • have processes in place which trigger this legal representation in the immediate aftermath of a serious or fatal road traffic accident.

At Anthony Jones, together with DAC Beachcroft, we work closely with all our clients to identify health and safety issues to ensure the safety of all their employees while at work. If you have any concerns about risk management within your own business, please get in touch with our team today.

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