Highway Code Changes Remain Unknown to Two in Three UK Drivers
The Highway Code is set to undergo a host of changes by the end of January that will look to create a new hierarchy on the road, ultimately in the hope of protecting pedestrians and cyclists.
The hierarchy implies that drivers of vehicles that can cause greater harm in the event of a collision bear the most responsibility to be cautious and reduce the danger to others. Therefore, this would seemingly apply largely to drivers of cars, HGV’s and motorcycles, but moving down the hierarchy, cyclists will also have a responsibility to reduce danger to pedestrians.
As well as this, other changes include the requirement of drivers and cyclists to give way if a pedestrian is waiting to cross a road they are about to turn into. Under the old code, pedestrians only had right of way at a junction if they were already on the road. Cyclists will also now have priority when cars are turning at a junction.
However, according to a recent poll carried out by the AA, at least two in three drivers were unaware of the changes before Christmas, which polled 13,000 of its members on the subject.
Duncan Dollimore, Cycling UK’s head of campaigns, welcomed the changes, saying; “Many people won’t have read the Highway Code for years, so it’s essential that the key changes are clearly explained, with simple, accurate and memorable messages.
“These changes have legal implications. Just as we saw with the introduction of other road safety measures like mandatory seatbelts and stricter drink-driving laws, the public needs to be accurately informed about the new rules. The hierarchy of responsibility and changes to junction priority need to be explained and communicated properly, regardless of whether or not everyone agrees with them.”
While the new changes are not legal requirements, the following are advisory measures but could still be drawn upon in court proceedings. These include advice that drivers:
- Should give way to pedestrians crossing or waiting to cross a road into which or from which their vehicle is turning.
- Should not cut across cyclists or horse riders going ahead when turning into or out of a junction or changing direction or lane, to prevent “left hook” collisions.
- Should open car doors using the “Dutch reach” method, with the hand on the opposite side to the door they are opening. This makes drivers turn their heads to look over their shoulders and reduces the likelihood of “dooring” a passing cyclist.
- Should leave at least 1.5 metres when overtaking cyclists at speeds of up to 30mph, and give them more space when overtaking at higher speeds.
Louise Haigh, the shadow transport secretary, said: “With cyclists feeling increasingly unsafe, these are welcome changes, but they will be totally meaningless if the public don’t know anything about them. A comprehensive national safety campaign is needed to keep cyclists safe on our roads, but ministers are missing in action.”
Cycling UK were also of the same belief, and called on the government to implement “a long-term and well-funded communications campaign” to raise awareness of the new code.
London was recently named the most congested city in the world and accidents involving cyclists have skyrocketed, but problems are not isolated to just the capital and these changes will largely be welcomed by UK drivers.
Should the changes be approved by parliament, they will come into effect on the 29th January.