How well do you know the Highway Code? Sure, we all had our copy memorised back-to-front before sitting our driving test but since then, have you ever thought to reacquaintance yourself with the rules of the road?
According to a 2021 study by Rooster Insurance, 46.6% of drivers have never refreshed their knowledge of the Highway Code. As such, we’re sure that those road users might be quite surprised to learn that on 29th January 2022, the Highway Code is set to undergo a significant change with 49 updates to existing rules and 8 new rules being introduced.
After a lengthy consultation which concluded at the end of October 2020, generating nearly 21,000 response, the majority voted in favour of the proposed changes, believing that they would improve safety for cyclists, pedestrians and horse riders.
Amongst the changes is a new ‘Hierarchy of Road Users’ that will prioritise the most vulnerable road users, such as cyclists and pedestrians. This puts more responsibility on the drivers of larger vehicles to look after more vulnerable road users.
There is some concern that the new changes and revisions to the Highway Code could lead to an increase in road traffic accidents throughout both Scotland and across the whole of the UK in the coming months, due to a lack of awareness surrounding the changes.
Here at Bonnar Accident Law, we have significant experience handling road traffic accidents and are well versed in both the legal requirements and advisory behaviours that road users should adhere to. If you’d like more information get in touch today, or keep reading to find out all you need to know about the upcoming changes to the Highway Code and how they could affect any claims for compensation.
The Hierarchy of Road Users
The new Hierarchy of Road Users is being introduced to the Highway Code to ensures that those road users who can do the greatest harm, have the greatest responsibility to reduce the danger or threat they may pose to other road users.
The new hierarchy is in the order of which road users are most likely to be harmed in the event of an accident and is as follows:
- Horse riders
- Large passenger vehicles/heavy goods vehicles
The need to prioritise pedestrian safety has perhaps been highlighted by the COVID-19 pandemic and the increased awareness of climate change, both of which have seen many people deterred from risking public transport and taking to walking more. In fact, a recent study found that 38% of people are walking more than they were before the pandemic.
For cyclists, research from Cycling Scotland has found that between 2020 and 2021, there has been a 47% rise in people regularly cycling, as more people than ever before are taking to their bikes as a safe, economical and environmentally friendly way to get around.
However, whilst it’s clear why the safety of road users such as pedestrians and cyclists needs to be prioritised, the hierarchy does not remove the requirement for all road users to behave responsibly. The new Highway Code states that it is important that all road users are aware of the Highway Code, are considerate to other road users and understand their responsibility for the safety of others.
What other changes does the new Highway Code introduce?
- Pedestrians will have increased priority at junctions over all other road users, including cyclists. Currently other road users only have to give way to pedestrians who have started to cross at junctions; under the new rule they should also give way when pedestrians are waiting to cross. The same applies in relation to zebra crossings, where currently traffic technically only must stop when a pedestrian has moved onto the crossing.
- Cyclists can choose to ride in the centre of their lanes in certain situations, such as on quiet roads or at the approach to junctions. At junctions with no separate lights or cycle facilities, cyclists should position themselves in the centre of the lane.
- Drivers, motorbike riders, horse riders and cyclists at a junction should give way to pedestrians crossing or waiting to cross a road into which, or from which, they are turning. Cyclists also have to give way to pedestrians on shared use cycle tracks.
- Drivers 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.
- Drivers should open car doors using the ‘Dutch reach’ method, with the hand on the opposite side to the door they are opening. This will mean drivers turn their heads to look over their shoulders and reduces the likelihood of hitting passing cyclists with their doors.
- Drivers should leave at least 1.5 metres when overtaking cyclists at speeds of up to 30mph, more space when overtaking at higher speeds, and allow at least 2 metres space and keep to a low speed when passing a pedestrian who is walking in the road (e.g., where there is no pavement).
Read the full list of full changes set out by the Department of Transport here.
Will the change to the Highway Code affect my claim if I am injured in a road traffic accident?
The Highway Code is being updated to improve road safety for vulnerable road users, but there will be no changes to the law. The rules of the Highway Code are advisory, meaning a person won’t be prosecuted for not complying with them.
However, the Highway Code can be used in court to establish liability in the event of an accident under the Road Traffic Act. This includes rules which say ‘should/should not or do/do not.’ Therefore, if you are found to be at fault in an accident as a result of not complying with the Highway Code, you may face charges in court.
If you are involved in a road traffic accident, whilst we can completely under your distress, we can only advise that you try your best to stay calm and remember as many details as you can, as these can help to support your claim if you weren’t at fault. Try to record the following:
- Names, addresses and contact details of all drivers involved
- Vehicle registration details for all vehicles involved
- Accident date and time
- Accident location
- Full contact details of any witnesses
Most importantly of course, if necessary, seek medical attention as soon as possible and report to your GP following any hospital admissions. And remember to always report the accident to the police.
If you have been injured in a road traffic accident that wasn’t your fault and you would like more information, please get in touch with one of our No Win No Fee solicitors today.