Jack Dreyer | Tuesday 25th January 2022 11:01am
Since 1931, the Highway Code has been instructing motorists of the best practices for driving on Britain’s roads. Since then, plenty of things have changed, and on the 29th of January 2022, things are going to be changing again.
The hierarchies on the road will come to prioritise a different set of users, and all motorists will need to adhere to these changes. According to the Department for Transport, the new system will foster a “more mutually respectful and considerate culture of safe and effective road use”.
Read on to find out more about the upcoming changes, and how best you can prepare.
The new regulations at a glance
At a glance, the new regulations take into account the conflicting interests of the different types of road users and aim to integrate them more harmoniously.
There has always been a conflict of interest on Britain’s roads — from cyclists to taxis — but now the Highway Code seems to be fostering a more unified approach to travel.
As of January, large passenger vehicle drivers will have a greater responsibility in reducing the threat posed to other road users, while drivers will have to give more leeway when dealing with pedestrians at zebra crossings.
These new changes also seem to show a greater consideration paid towards the safety of road users at all levels. For example, cyclists must give way to pedestrians on shared paths, the cyclists themselves are protected from drivers cutting across them when turning in or out of a junction.
What’s more, implementations such as the New ‘Dutch Reach’ technique also informs road users on how best to open their door (while looking over their shoulder) to reduce the risk of harm done to themselves and others.
The three main highway code changes
The changes coming into force in January are manifold and there are simply too many to list and explain here all at once. However, the GOV.UK website has all of the information you need. And, in the meantime, we have identified three of the most significant changes that we think you should know about.
1. Hierarchy of road users
The changes that are due to happen will, as we have said, greatly impact the hierarchy of road users on the most fundamental level. Those who have the potential to cause the greatest harm now have the greatest responsibility to keep others safe.
The hierarchy of road users is as follows:
- Horse rider
- Motorcycle riders
- Cars & taxis
- Van & minibuses
- Large passenger vehicles & heavy goods vehicles
But the new code specifies that, even though pedestrians are at the top of the list, they too have a responsibility to keep road users safe.
2. The three main highway code changes
Drivers, cyclists, and horse riders have been the target of a series of new regulations which specify that pedestrians have the right of way to cross at junctions.
As of January, if you are a road user looking to pull out of or turn into a junction, you must always let the pedestrian pass first.
The same applies to zebra crossings and parallel crossings. As well as this, there has been a refreshed emphasis on pedestrian-only pavements. Apart from wheelchairs and mobility scooters, no vehicles are allowed on pavements.
However, cyclists have also been considered in the new code.
3. Cyclists get priority too!
In certain situations, the new code specifies that cyclists get priority too. Motorcyclists and drivers have been urged not to cut across cyclists when they are turning in or out of a junction to reduce the number of collisions. This rule applies regardless of whether the cyclist is moving in a cycle lane, a cycle track, or even the road itself.
Instead, it is recommended that motorists stop and wait for a decent-sized safe gap (advised 1.5m) while cyclists are moving away from a junction, passing, waiting next to stationary traffic, or travelling on the roundabout.
Who will be affected by the new changes?
The most significant changes will affect both the smallest and the largest of Britain’s vehicles simultaneously. That is, the new rules will primarily impact cyclists and HGV drivers since they respectively pose the greatest risk and are at risk themselves.
In a nutshell, pedestrians and cyclists will benefit greatly from these changes as they are being elevated further up the list of priorities on Britain’s roads.
Is the new highway code legally enforced?
Although the new highway code is recommended by the government, unfortunately not all of the advice it prescribes is legally enforceable.
That’s exactly what it is, after all, just advice aimed at keeping the public safe. Some of the rules, however, are given legal standing and it is actually a criminal offence to not abide by them.
You can easily tell which of the highway code’s rules are legally binding because they begin with or include “you must” or “you must not”.
As an example, “Helmets MUST comply with the Regulations and they MUST be fastened securely.”
Failure to comply with the highway code rules can land you with a hefty fine.
Will there be any other changes?
Aside from the three main rules we’ve identified above, there are also a whole host of other, more nuanced changes. A prime example is the ‘Dutch Reach’ method we described earlier being added as guidance to the ‘Waiting and Parking’ chapter.
Or, prescriptive advice for electric vehicle owners to prevent their charging cables from becoming trip hazards.
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