On 29 January, 2022, the Highway Code changed significantly but one year on, are motorists now familiar with the amendments, and in particularly, with the hierarchy of road users that was established?
The AA commissioned a survey of its members last September and found that 61% of UK road users had still not read the new rules. From my own experience, I regularly see breaches of the new code by motorists, particularly with reference to protection of vulnerable road users which the code had attempted to address by establishing a ‘hierarchy’ of road users.
Hierarchy of road users
By way of reminder, changes to the Code were aimed at protecting the most vulnerable on the road by establishing a hierarchy of users, starting with pedestrians, cyclists and horse riders. This means that vehicle drivers would need to give priority to the most vulnerable.
For example, where a pedestrian is waiting to cross at a junction then a motor vehicle has to give priority to that pedestrian. This would mean that a car waiting to turn left or right from a main road into a side road should in theory stop where a pedestrian was waiting to cross. I've seen this so many times, however, over the course of the last year and motorists rarely stop.
The updated code further establishes safe passing distances for drivers overtaking cyclists, motorcyclists and horse riders of 1.5 metres at speeds of 30 mph, or two metres at higher speeds, yet I see drivers much closer than this on an a daily basis.
Where are we now?
YouGov repeated the AA’s poll on the Highway Code changes earlier this month and surprisingly found that 60% of motorists still aren’t familiar with the changes. There has been disappointingly very little change in public knowledge since the AA survey.
Even more concerning was that when YouGov surveyed more than 2,000 adults, a quarter said they knew “nothing at all” about the amendments.
The Department for Transport says it has invested more than £1.3 million in a campaign called Think! over the last year to increase driver awareness over last year’s changes, but clearly there's a long way to go before the changes are embedded in the way that people behave on the roads.
Conclusion and test your knowledge
Sadly I often represent clients who’ve suffered life-changing injuries family members of those tragically killed as a result of collisions.
In both instances those I represent are left traumatised by what’s happened and how their lives have changed through no fault of their own. They require legal advice to either access the specialist rehabilitation and therapies they require to try and regain as much of their independence as possible or to access support they need to come to terms with their loss.
Therefore, I urge any driver to be familiar with the changes to the Code that are summarised well on the Gov.uk website.
You can also test your knowledge of the changes via our interactive quiz
Find out more about Irwin Mitchell's expertise in helping people affected by road collisions and their families at our dedicated road traffic accidents section.