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How will the new Highway Code rules affect you? We look at some of the key points.

Major changes to the Highway Code aimed at better protecting the most vulnerable road users like pedestrians and cyclists are now in force.

The new rules follow a major government consultation of more than 20,000 individuals, businesses and other organisations and have been praised by cycling and road safety charities.

However, a recent poll by the AA found that a third of the 13,700 drivers it surveyed had no idea that eight new rules and 49 updated rules were introduced at the end of January 2022. A publicity campaign starting this month (February) aims to address this.

Will I be breaking the law if I don’t follow the new Highway Code rules?

 Yes, and the relevant wording throughout clarifies when:

  • The terms Must and Must Not indicate a legal requirement and you are committing a criminal offence if you disobey these rules.
  • The terms Should/Should Not and Do/Do Not are advisory and may be used in evidence in court to establish liability.

What is the new ‘hierarchy of road users’?

A new pecking order has been established on the basis that those who can do the most harm have the greatest responsibility to protect the most vulnerable.

Those most at risk are at the top of the list:

  1. Pedestrians
  2. Cyclists
  3. Horse riders
  4. Motorcyclists
  5. Cars/taxis
  6. Vans/minibuses
  7. Large vehicles like buses and HGVs

We explain: The aim is not to give priority to pedestrians, cyclists and horse riders in every situation, but to nurture a mutual respect and considerate culture for safe and effective road use that benefits everyone.

Do I have to give way to pedestrians at junctions?

 Yes, other road users will now be required to give way to pedestrians already crossing or waiting to cross a road into which a driver is turning. Previously, vehicles had the right of way at a junction.

Road users should give way to pedestrians waiting to cross a zebra crossing, and pedestrians and cyclists waiting to cross a parallel crossing and must always give way to pedestrians on a zebra crossing, and pedestrians and cyclists on a parallel crossing.

Cyclists should give way to pedestrians on shared use cycle tracks.

We explain: Quite rightly, pedestrians should be prioritised as those most likely to be harmed in a collision but it does not mean that they should take increased risks with their own safety as the updated code reiterates.

 What are the new priorities for cyclists?

 Most importantly, cyclists must be given priority by drivers in certain situations including roundabouts and junctions, when changing lanes and in slow-moving traffic.

Other amendments aimed at improving cycling safety include compelling drivers to:

  • Leave at least 1.5 metres when overtaking a cyclist.
  • Use the ‘Dutch Reach’ technique to check over their shoulder when opening a door to avoid hitting passing cyclists in a car dooring
  • Be aware it can be safer for groups of cyclists to ride two abreast on narrow sections of road, quiet roads, at road junctions and in slow-moving traffic and to allow cyclists to do so for their own safety.

What are the new Highway Code rules for cyclists?

One of the biggest changes is that cyclists should now make themselves as visible as possible by riding in the centre of lanes on quiet roads, in slower moving traffic and as they approach junctions.

Other changes include:

  • Advising cyclists to ride at least one door’s width or one metre from parked cars for their own safety.
  • Allowing cyclists to pass slower-moving traffic or stationary traffic on the right or left with caution.
  • Keeping at least half a metre from the kerb on busy roads and one metre when passing a parked car.

What else should I know about the new Highway Code?

Obviously, there are too many amendments for us to outline them all in full here.

However, other changes of note include:

  • Passing horse riders and horse-drawn vehicle at speeds under 10mph and allowing at least two metres of space.
  • Allowing at least two metres of space and keeping to a low speed when passing a pedestrian walking in the road (for example, where there is no pavement).
  • Taking extra care and giving more space in bad weather or at night

How we can help

If you have been injured in a road accident that was someone else’s fault please contact Wards Solicitors’ Accident and Injury team, ranked in the 2022 edition of the independent Legal 500 guide.

Get in touch

In most cases we act on a ‘no win, no fee basis’ and offer a free initial consultation. Please contact Angela Carnell, Solicitor Associate, a Legal 500 recommended lawyer, or any member of our Accident and Injury Team, for further advice and guidance.

Call 01454 204880 or email: angela.carnell@wards.uk.com

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