How the Highway Code Updates Could Make Roads Safer

29 January 2022

Highway Code updates should make the road safer for all

The Highway Code has been making multiple tweaks and amendments of late. Despite tremendous developments in automobile safety technology over the previous two decades, a BBC Panorama investigation has found that the fatality rate on our roads is on the rise for the first time in 40 years.

According to safety organisations, UK drivers habitually break the law because they know they can get away with it.

However, Highway Code updates to the terminology, which take effect on January 29, may be about to cause a shift.

According to the new rule book, heavy vehicle drivers must now recognise that they offer the highest risk of harm to smaller vehicles, horse riders, bicycles, and pedestrians.

Highway Code updates have changed; what has been added is clarification. Drivers were warned in previous editions of the Highway Code to be alert of vulnerable road users; now they must prioritise them."You should not cut across cyclists, horse riders, or horse-drawn vehicles heading ahead while turning into or out of a junction or changing direction or lane, just as you would not turn across the path of another motor vehicle," says regulation H3."You must give way to them whether they are using a bike lane, a cycle track, or riding ahead on the road."

Highway Code updates

When a car overtakes them on the right and then turns left across them, cyclists refer to this manoeuvre as the 'left hook.' Because of the Highway Code updates, the odds of successfully prosecuting the driver have just improved if a rider is able to record this manoeuvre on video.Det Ch Insp Andy Cox, Lincolnshire Police's head of crime and previous lead for Vision Zero, a London-based road injury reduction project, is optimistic.

"It's a game changing moment. The police can't be everywhere all the time but the public can be. We were enforcing about two-thirds of all submissions"

Det Ch Insp Andy Cox, head of crime with Lincolnshire Police

Before the Highway Code updates, fixed penalty notices, points on your driver's licence, and fines range from fixed penalty notices to suspended jail sentences. He is unequivocal in his belief that allowing vulnerable road users to submit proof of unsafe driving will influence driver behaviour.

"Some cyclists told me they'd had a close pass, they'd had their footage referred to us, and then they'd seen the same vehicle again but [it gave] them more space."

Det Ch Insp Andy Cox, head of crime with Lincolnshire Police

However, when the code update was announced earlier in January, some drivers expressed their displeasure on Twitter, criticising the Department for Transport (DfT) for not making it more generally known.

The Department for Transport's parliamentary under-secretary of state, Trudy Harrison, has stated that a bigger "habit change campaign" will be launched later this year.

The Department for Transport says it has formed a working group of key organisations to ensure that details of the Highway Code updates are widely disseminated, backed up by its existing THINK! road safety campaign.

Det Ch Insp Cox advises drivers who are concerned about being videotaped and reported by overzealous cyclists to think twice about how they drive, since "risk driving is not just a traffic offence - this is road crime."

The British Horse Society's director of safety, Alan Hiscox, is "extremely happy" with the Highway Code updates because they specifically mention overtaking.

"Before this, we were the forgotten portion of the vulnerable road user category. Rather than saying 'pass wide and slow,' the Highway Code updates now reads 'pass horses at a maximum of 10mph and give them 2m' - now drivers have something concrete to refer to."

Alan Hiscox, British Horse Society's director of safety

In January, at least two horses were killed on UK roads, according to the BHS, which reports roughly 1,000 road-related fatalities each year.

However, Ian Walker, a professor of environmental psychology at Surrey University who has studied how to improve drivers' attitudes toward bicycles, is sceptical that the code changes will address "a group of drivers [who] won't care and don't feel they should share the road."

"Driving is habitual, and habitual behaviour is difficult to change," he explains. On a more positive note, he adds that raising awareness of the regulations, as well as "knowing that you're more likely to be caught," will be critical in promoting change.

Cameras can be expensive: to be effective they must be small enough for a bike, or helmet, but capable of picking out number plates, often at high speed and in low light.

Riders complain, too, that it should not be down to them to cover the additional cost of this tech, when it is drivers' responsibility to keep them safe in the first place.

"Cameras are great for gathering evidence, but I got into cycling to relax, not to spend my time submitting police reports" says father-of-two, Nigel Roe, who lives in Manchester and is an enthusiastic cyclist."

If you're looking to get your driving license with DVLA approved instructors that keep abreast of the Highway Code updates, you're in the right place. We have courses to suit your needs, all across the UK.

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