A number of changes were made to The Highway Code in January 2022. These changes followed a public consultation on a review of The Highway Code to improve road safety for people walking, cycling and riding horses. It ran from July to October 2020 and received more than 20,000 responses from the public, businesses and other organisations. Most people who responded were in favour of all the changes. Nine sections of the Highway Code were updated, with 50 rules added or amended.

However, more than three-fifths of UK motorists have not read recent updates to the Highway Code, according to the findings of a recent survey by the AA. The motoring group survey of 13,327 members suggested that 8,090 (61%) drivers had not read changes made in January.

Some 6,972 motorists had heard about the new rules but had not read them yet, while 1,118 drivers were completely unaware of the changes.

One in 10 drivers aged 18-54 were completely unaware of the updates, compared with 5% of those aged 55 and above. However, when asked to identify five correct statements included in the updated Highway Code from a list of 10, most respondents did so correctly.

The new guidance gives pedestrians, cyclists and horse riders greater priorities on the road, such as:

  • Vehicles should give at least 1.5m of space when overtaking cyclists and 2m for horses.
  • Drivers and other road users should give way to pedestrians crossing at road junctions and not be allowed to cut across vulnerable users when exiting a junction.
  • The Highway Code now advises cyclists to ride in the centre of lanes on quieter roads, in slower-moving traffic and when approaching junctions.
  • A hierarchy of road users was also introduced, meaning a driver in a car, van or lorry now has a greater responsibility to watch out for others.

Reaction to the AA Survey

Mary Williams OBE, chief executive of road safety charity Brake, described the changes as “crucial” because they “better protect those most at risk, such as people walking and cycling”. She also urged “drivers in particular” to look at the updated code and “do their bit to put safety first by looking out for vulnerable road users.”

Tim Rankin, managing director of AA Accident Assist, said: “For many the updated Highway Code formalises safe and sensible roadcraft; however, we are concerned that so many still haven’t read the rules.” He added, “It is in everyone’s interest to take every measure that helps avoid collisions and remove confusion from the road, so we urge those that still haven’t read the updated code to do so as soon as possible.”

The Department for Transport is now promoting a campaign to communicate the changes to the public. It is challenging and takes time to change ingrained habits even with a lot of public messaging, but without it, there is little chance of changing the habits and making the new rules part of everyone’s driving habits.

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