Changes to the Highway Code in January 2022

4th April 2022 Personal Injury

Research from an AA poll has found that only two-thirds of drivers are aware of the changes made to the Highway Code on January 29th, and that 30% of drivers believe it to be fake news. However, a new hierarchy  was introduced that includes major changes, detailing the rights and responsibilities of road users and pedestrians that, if you’re not familiar with, could cause serious harm or legal action if not adhered to.

Read more now, and share the news so others can be informed, as the rules of the Highway Code only work if everyone is aware of them.

What are the new rules?

The rules are simple but easily missable. The new hierarchy designates different road users’ priorities based on their respective vulnerability 

Priority One: Pedestrians

Priority Two: Cyclists

Priority Three: Horse Riders

Priority Four: Motorcyclists 

Priority Five: Cars / taxis

Priority Six: Vans / minibuses

Priority Seven: Large passenger vehicles / heavy goods vehicles (HGVs)

The ordering of this hierarchy is quite simple: the smaller and more vulnerable a road user is , the higher priority it gets on the road, and those who are capable of doing the most harm, such as HGVs, have the greatest responsibility for the safety of other road users.

The hierarchy acts as a general guideline for all road users to consider when using the roads. 

Of course, the new rules doesn’t state that, if accidents happen, it is never the fault of the lower priority road user. Pedestrians are urged to consider the safety of others at all times too. 

The second major change to the Highway Code relates to junctions and turnings. The new rule states  that pedestrians now have priority over motorists and cyclists at junctions. Previously, this law was the other way around, meaning it could be mistaken or missed, so it is essential for road users to be aware of this going forward, and it is our goal to spread the news as best we can, so we encourage you to do the same.

Vehicles should give way to pedestrians before turning and should wait until the pedestrian has fully crossed the road before making their turn. Equally, cyclists have a responsibility to protect pedestrians. Also, drivers are reminded that they need to stop at zebra and parallel crossings.

The third part of the new rules states that vehicles must give way to cyclists if they are planning to make a turn. Similarly with the pedestrian crossing rules, drivers should wait until the cyclist is fully beyond their vehicles before acting. Cyclists must also be aware of their rights to use shared-use cycle tracks, and that they must not cycle on the pavements.

Issues relating to the new rules

Of course, there have already been issues discussed with the new rules. The main problem is regarding the communication of the Highway Code, as specialist cycling lawyer Nadia Kerr explains in our JMW’s Inside Man interview on the matter.

The research outlined above shows that many road users are simply not aware that changes  have been implemented. Additionally, many drivers do not consult the Highway Code at all after they pass their test, resulting in outdated knowledge and understanding of their responsibilities. There is also an assumption that vulnerable road users and pedestrians will be more reckless with their newfound priority.

Conflict between road users may arise as a result of their lack of awareness and, more importantly, accidents may happen. This is why it is of paramount importance that everyone is aware of these new rules. Again, we would like to reiterate that these rules are applied for the safety of all users, and they only work if everyone adheres to them. 

Any other important rules to watch out for?

Other rules introduced in the Highway Code include advice on parking, in the form of the ‘Dutch Reach’ technique, which encourages motorists to open vehicle doors with the opposite hand to the door, e.g. use your right hand to open the door on your left side, as this naturally moves you to look over your shoulder to see if there is any oncoming traffic.

Finally, electronic vehicle users are reminded that leaving charging cables exposed is a trip hazard.

If you think you have been affected by an irresponsible road user due to the changes in these rules, or you have caused an accident without realising that these new laws had been implemented, call us now on 0800 804 8159 for a consultation about your problem, and our expert road traffic accident solicitors will be happy to help.

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Nadia Kerr is a Partner located in Manchester in our Bicycle Accidents & Personal Injury department

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