Following a public consultation that ran from July and October 2020, The Highway Code has been improved and key changes have been made. This is believed to improve safety for pedestrians, particularly children, older adults and disabled people, cyclists, and horse riders.
The UK government states “Keeping our roads safe for everyone, and in particularly vulnerable road users, is the main priority for the government. Everyone has an equal right to use the road, and they should do so in a safe, considerate, and responsible manner. It is therefore important that The Highway Code keeps pace with change and reflects the safety needs of the most vulnerable road user groups.”
Edmund King, AA president, comments “The update is much needed with more “active travel” being encouraged and a boom in deliveries by people on bicycles. The upcoming changes to the Highway Code are a reminder that all road users have a responsibility to look after one another, in particular, the most vulnerable ones: pedestrian, cyclists, other two-wheeled transport and horse riders.”
What Are The New Rules?
From Saturday 29th January 2022, drivers will have to abide by the following guidelines designed to help more people stay safe on the road. The following changes are now in place:
Hierarchy Of Road Users
The introduction to The Highway Code has been updated to include the new ‘hierarchy of road users’. In the event of a collision, those in charge of vehicles that can cause the greatest harm such as HGV and LGV drivers have the greatest responsibility. This doesn’t deter the responsibility of all road users. However, the hierarchy highlights those who must take more care to reduce the danger they pose to others.
Pedestrians Have Priority At Junctions
At a junction, drivers, motorcyclists, horse riders and cyclists should give way to pedestrians crossing or waiting to cross a road. The penalty for this will automatically lie with those ‘who can do the greatest harm’ unless proven otherwise.
All Traffic Must Stop For Pedestrians Waiting At Crossings
Previously, cyclists, drivers and horse riders only had to stop at zebra and parallel crossings if someone was already walking across. There was, however, an advisory to slow down on the approach to a zebra crossing, in anticipation of a pedestrian then crossing. However, this has now changed to all traffic must stop at zebra crossings if people are waiting to cross, not just if they are already crossing.
Cyclists Can Ride Where They Feel Most Visible
To date, cyclists have been required to ride on the left and ensure bike lights are used at night. However, with the new changes, cyclists are required to ride no less than half a metre from the verge or kerb, ‘further where it is safer’. Motorists must pass cyclists with at least 1.5 metres of space up to 30mph; more distance is required for higher speeds. Cyclists are expected to pull to the left on quieter roads, in slower-moving traffic and at busy junctions, to maximise safer overtaking opportunities.
Priority For Cyclists When Turning
Previously, there was no clear guidance or requirement for drivers to treat cyclists as though they were other vehicles. However, now this has been put into place. Drivers should not cut across cyclists, horse riders or horse-drawn vehicles going ahead when you are turning into or out of a junction or changing direction or lane. This applies whether they are using a cycle lane, a cycle track, or riding ahead on the road and you should give way to them. Do not turn at a junction if to do so would cause the cyclist, horse rider or horse-drawn vehicle going straight ahead to stop or swerve. You should stop and wait for a safe gap in the flow of cyclists if necessary. This includes when cyclists are:
- approaching, passing, or moving off from a junction
- moving past or waiting alongside stationary or slow-moving traffic
- travelling around a roundabout
Hand-Held Mobiles Are Banned
Except in an emergency, the use of any handheld device for anything is banned. This includes taking videos or photos, scrolling through playlists, or playing games even if your vehicle is stationary. They can be used for hands-free calls, payments at drive-through or tolls and as a satnav. But they have to be securely fixed to your vehicle. If caught touching your mobile during your journey, motorists face a £200 fine and six penalty points. For newly qualified drivers, six points and your licence revoked.
More Punishable Driving Decisions
Rules such as yellow hatched lines, creating a box junction, ‘must not be entered’ unless the exit is clear. Additionally, driving the wrong way up a street and not giving way to oncoming traffic. All will now be more punishable and local authorities will be given more power. This will enable them to fine drivers up to £70 for minor traffic offences.
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