The Highway Code was first published in 1931 and has been updated regularly to reflect current practice and road use.
Whilst not a legal document, The Highway Code is a code of good practice for road users and, as such, is not legally enforceable, although many of the instructions are backed up by law, for example, the offence of careless driving. This means that failure of individuals to comply with the rules cannot lead to a fine, a prosecution, or to a driving disqualification, but can be used to establish liability in a civil claim.
2022 changes to The Highway Code
On 6 January 2022, Parliament published the draft revision of The Highway Code which includes rules on improving road safety for cyclists, pedestrians, and horse riders. This followed a public consultation on a review of The Highway Code.
On 29 January 2022, the changes to The Highway Code took effect. More than thirty of the existing rules have been amended with two new rules being introduced. A number of amendments are also being made to the additional information within The Highway Code and its annexes.
It has been reported that not everybody is fully aware of the changes being implemented. A recent survey by The AA of 13,700 drivers found that 33% did not know The Highway Code was being updated. Some (4%) said they had “no intention” of looking at the details.
It is highly important that everyone is aware of the changes made to The Highway Code to ensure that they do not cause an accident to themselves or to anybody else.
What are the changes to The Highway Code?
Below, we have summarised the most important changes to The Highway Code.
A new hierarchy of road users
This new rule aims to create clearer and stronger priorities for road users who are most at risk of serious collisions. The hierarchy is as follows:
- Horse Riders
- Large passenger vehicles or courier vehicles like buses and HGVs
This new hierarchy of road users seeks to give protection to the most vulnerable people on the road. The idea is that those who can do the most harm to others on the road have the greatest responsibility and therefore, should look out for everybody on the road.
Priority for pedestrians
Prior to the updates to The Highway Code, vehicle drivers, cyclists and horse riders had priority at junctions unless a pedestrian was halfway across the road. Additionally, vehicle drivers, cyclists and horse riders only had to stop at zebra and parallel crossings if a pedestrian was already walking across. However, as of 29 January 2022, vehicle drivers, cyclists and horse riders now have to give way to a pedestrian waiting to cross the road when they are turning into a junction.
However, concerns have been raised that this new rule could cause more collisions as it would mean vehicle drivers, cyclists and horse riders would be waiting on busy roads.
Priority for and positioning of cyclists
Vehicle users are now being told to regard cyclists as though they are another motor vehicle and to not turn in such a way that they cut across a cyclist’s right of way. When a vehicle driver is at a junction, they should not turn if it could cause a cyclist (or a horse rider or a horse-drawn vehicle), who is travelling straight ahead, to stop or swerve. Vehicle drivers must stop and wait for there to be a gap in the flow of cyclists, if required.
Vehicle users should now give priority to, and not cut across, cyclists (or horse riders or horse-drawn vehicles) when travelling straight ahead or when they are turning into or out of a junction, or changing direction or lane.
The new rules also permit cyclists to ride in the centre of a lane to make themselves more visible on the road, especially when approaching junctions and overtaking could be unsafe.
Cyclists now have to cycle no less than half a metre from the kerb or even further where it is safe. Vehicle users also must have to leave at least 1.5 metres of space when overtaking a cyclist at speeds of up to 30mph. At speeds in excess of 30mph, drivers must allow even more space.
Finally, The Highway Code now advises cyclists to take care when passing parked vehicles and that they should leave enough space (one metre or a door’s width) to avoid the chances of them being hit if a vehicle door is opened.
The dutch reach method
This new rule gives drivers specific advice about how to exit their vehicle. This method requires the driver to open their car door with the hand furthest away from the door. This forces them to turn their head and look backwards which may mean they spot either a cyclist or motorcyclist, this helps prevent a collision.
How could the changes to The Highway Code impact personal injury claims?
It is likely that the changes to The Highway Code will impact how the Courts deal with the subject of liability for personal injury claims involving vehicle drivers, pedestrians and cyclists, with the Courts most likely siding with the road user that can do the least amount of harm or damage (as per the previously mentioned hierarchy of road users). Consequently, the changes provide enhanced protections to pedestrians, cyclists and horse riders.
Prior to these changes to The Highway Code, liability in cases involving pedestrians, cyclists or horse riders with road vehicles was often difficult to prove or establish, except in the most clear-cut and obvious cases. This seems likely to change now following the recent updates to The Highway Code.
How can we help?
If you have any questions in relation to the topics discussed in this article, please contact Emma or another member of the team in Derby, Leicester or Nottingham on 0800 024 1976 or via our online form.