Key Changes to the Highway Code

A revised edition of the Highway Code will come into force on 29th January 2022 introducing rules on improving road safety, with the new hierarchy of road users being the most significant.

Rule H1 aims to put more responsibility on the drivers of larger vehicles to show greater care towards more vulnerable road users.

At the top of the hierarchy, and the most vulnerable of all road users, are pedestrians. Pedestrians are followed by cyclists, who are placed above motorcyclists and horse riders; and then car/van drivers. The bottom of the hierarchy is propped up by large vehicles, such as buses and HGVs.

This in practice would suggest that motorcyclists owe pedestrians and cyclists a greater duty of care, whilst four wheeled vehicles owe motorcyclists an enhanced responsibility as the pose a greater risk in the event of an accident.

Rule H2 states that if you are at a junction, you should give way to pedestrians crossing or waiting to cross a road into which or from which you are turning. For example, if you are turning into a road and there is a pedestrian waiting to cross, you will need to give them right of way.

Rule H3, which is specifically addressed to motorcyclists and drivers, states that you shouldn’t turn at a junction if doing so would cause a cyclist or horse rider to stop or swerve. You must wait for a safe gap in traffic before conducting your turn.

In addition to the three main changes, the following amendments have also been incorporated into the Highway Code:

  • You must now give at least 1.5 metres distance when overtaking cyclists at speed of less than 30mph and at least 2 metres when passing a horse at a maximum of 10mph. If a pedestrian is walking in the road, then low speed and 2 metre distance is recommended (Rule 212/215/163);
  • You should give way to cyclists in a cycle lane (Rule 140);
  • When travelling in slow moving traffic, you must allow pedestrians or cyclists to cross in front of you (Rule 151); and
  • You must give way to pedestrians or cyclists that have moved onto a zebra crossing or parallel crossing (Rule 195).

Whilst changes to the Highway Code do not affect the law governing road users, it is important to note that the Highway Code is advisory and that infringements can be useful in helping to argue where liability should rest in the event of an accident.