Changes to the Highway Code

Changes to the Highway Code

Changes to the Highway Code 1920 1280 James Hallam

The Department for Transport have announced a raft of changes to the Highway Code, including the introduction of the ‘Dutch Reach’ and the Hierarchy of Road Users, here’s what you need to know…

The changes are designed to enhance safety for all road-users, particularly those most vulnerable, as the Government continues the Build Back Safer campaign.

The changes include 33 rule amendments which are summarised here with the full official Government response available to be viewed here.

In addition to the updated rules there are three further new rules introducing a new hierarchy of road-users and greater priority for pedestrians and cyclists.

Rule H1 introduces a hierarchy of road-users, the purpose of which is that those ‘road users who can do the greatest harm have the greatest responsibility to reduce the danger they pose to others’ according to the Department for Transport (DFT). The scale ranks road users from most vulnerable upwards to those who pose most harm – pedestrians, cyclist, horse riders, motorcyclists, cars, vans, large vehicles/HGV’s.

The aim of the hierarchy is to encourage a culture of safety and responsibility, it is not intended to give vulnerable road users priority in all circumstances and all road users do remain responsible for their own safety when using the road.

Rule H2 introduces a greater priority for pedestrians at junctions where the onus will be on drivers to look out for and respond to the actions of the pedestrian. Rule H2 imposes an obligation on drivers and riders:

  • At a road junction you should give way to pedestrians who are crossing or waiting to cross a road you are turning into or from which you are turning
  • You must give way to pedestrians on a zebra crossing
  • You must give way to cyclists and pedestrians on a parallel crossing
  • You should give way to pedestrians if they are waiting to cross on their respective crossings
  • Cyclists should give way to pedestrians on shared cycle/pedestrian tracks
  • Only pedestrians and wheelchair/mobility scooters should use a pavement

This rule will impact drivers and riders, particularly where there is an obligation, rather than merely advice or guidance, on the actions that must be taken in certain circumstances. As an example, under Rule H2, if a pedestrian is standing on a pavement waiting to cross at a crossing, drivers and riders should give priority to the pedestrian.

Rule H3 is in respect of protecting and prioritising cyclists at junctions. Cyclists will now be given right of way when passing on the inside of vehicles turning left. H3 will advise drivers to not cut across cyclists who are continuing straight ahead when the driver intends to turn into or out of a junction or when changing lanes. Drivers must also not turn at a junction if it would cause a cyclist to swerve or stop and safe distance should be maintained from cyclists at junctions, roundabouts or when cyclists are passing slow moving or stationary traffic.

The update to the Highway Code also encouraged motorists to adopt the so-called ‘Dutch Reach’, opening the door next to them with the opposite hand so they look over their shoulder, meaning they’re less likely to injure passing cyclists and pedestrians.

Cyclists will also receive guidance to ride in the centre of a lane on quieter roads, in slower-moving traffic and at the approach to junctions in order to make themselves as clearly visible as possible. Cyclists will be reminded they can ride two abreast, as has always been the case, which can be safer in large groups or with children but must be aware of drivers behind them and allow them to overtake if it is safe to do so.

As part of their work to improve road safety even further, the Department for Transport also recently announced plans to change the laws in relation to the use of hand-held mobile phones while driving.

The law in this area is expected to be tightened further later this year, making virtually any use of the devices behind the wheel illegal, with those caught breaking the law potentially facing 6 penalty points and a £200 fine.