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  • Mark Salisbury

Highway Code confusion

Updated: May 11, 2023

Changes are expected to be made to the Highway Code in early 2022 which will introduce a ‘hierarchy of road users’, with more vulnerable users such as pedestrians and cyclists prioritised. The move is part of a £338 million Government package to further boost active travel across the UK. However, research carried out by Venson Automotive Solutions has revealed that a worrying number of people do not know enough of the current Highway Code, giving cause for concern that new changes could create greater confusion and road chaos.

According to the Venson survey, just one in three drivers (27%) know that vehicles are only required to stop at zebra crossings if pedestrians are already on the crossing. If Parliament approves the proposed Highway Code changes, drivers will have to give pedestrians greater priority by stopping to give way to pedestrians waiting to cross as well as those already on the crossing. 74% of Venson survey respondents agree this would be a good change.

Another popular new rule would require cyclists to move into single file to allow vehicles to pass (60% agreed with this rule). The least popular proposed new rule would allow cyclists to pass slower moving vehicles on either side, including when approaching junctions – just 26% agreed this rule should be brought in.

“Knowing the Highway Code is essential in making our roads safer places,” commented Alison Bell, Marketing Director at Venson Automotive Solutions. “However, there is clearly confusion about what is and isn’t law. Take for example undertaking, there are circumstances where undertaking is necessary, such as a congested road, but only if it’s safe to do so. One cause of undertaking is middle-lane hogging, an offence in itself that’s punishable with an on the spot £100 fine and three penalty points. One of the new proposed changes in the law next year that’s likely to catch people is out, is using of the horn to invite pedestrians and cyclists to cross the road.”

“Depending on the severity, and whether or not the rules are legal requirements, breaking the rules of the Highway Code could lead to prosecution, points on your licence, fines or even a custodial sentence. Generally, if a rule states something ‘must’ or must not’ be done it is backed up by law and pleading ignorance is no excuse,” continues Bell. “Learning the existing and incoming rules deserves every driver’s time. However, for businesses operating a fleet of vehicles it’s especially the case, as they have a Duty of Care to ensure company drivers are aware of their responsibilities, and the upcoming changes to the rules – whether they agree with them or not.”

Venson Automotive Solutions Survey results:

Which of the following are true?

New changes to the Highway Code are being proposed, including priorities at crossings and junctions and cyclists in relation to vehicles.

The latest version of the Highway Code can be downloaded here, a revised version is due to be published in Spring 2022

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