Motor Insurance

Highway Code rule changes explained

NimbleFins explains the new highway code rules.

New Highway Code rules have come into effect for 2022 in what has been described at the "largest shake-up" ever of driving laws.

The updates, which launched on January 29 2022, will affect every road user - not just drivers - with cyclists and pedestrians given more protections.

A hierarchy of road users has been introduced, putting more onus on those driving the heaviest and quickest of vehicles to protect those more in danger.

Online driving school specialist Ultimate Driving said: “This is the largest shakeup of The Highway Code test that’s ever happened.

“It’s going to affect every single one of us. It's going to affect cyclists, pedestrians, lorry drivers. Every type of road user now has new boundaries on certain things."

A third of motorists questioned didn't know the rules were changing, according to a poll by The AA, carried out in the days before they came into force.

Jack Cousens, its head of road policy, said: "While the government formally announced these changes last summer, they have been far too silent in promoting them.

“Shockingly, one in 25 drivers say they have no intention of looking at the new rules.

“These changes affect everyone, so we encourage people to read the updated code now so we can make our roads safer.”

The government said it is spending £500,000 promoting the new regulations.

Some of the key changes include:

  • Cyclists should ride in the centre of a lane in many scenarios.
  • Drivers should use their hand furthest from the door when opening a vehicle from inside (The 'Dutch Reach' method).
  • Drivers must give way to pedestrians crossing a road the driver is turning into.

What are the rules?

There are eight rules that come into effect from January 29 2022.

1. Hierarchy of road users

Those most at risk of a collision are at the top of the hierarchy, and it is the duty of those lower down the hierarchy (who can cause the greatest harm) to reduce the danger for those higher up.

The road hierarchy:

  • Pedestrians
  • Cyclists
  • Horse riders
  • Motorcyclists
  • Cars
  • Vans/minibuses
  • Large goods or passenger vehicles (eg HGVs, coaches)

This does not mean cyclists, for example, are not answerable on the roads. All road users must be aware of the Highway Code, be considerate and understand their responsibilities while travelling.

2. Crossing at junctions

Traffic turning into a road should give way to pedestrians crossing that road.

Those already moving across the carriageway have right of way.

Drivers, motorcyclists or cyclists must give way to people waiting at a zebra or parallel crossing.

3. Sharing spaces - rules for cyclists

Some paths such as bridleways or footpaths are shared between pedestrians, cyclists and horse riders. The Highway Code advises cyclists to pass people slowly and give a wide berth, particularly when passing from behind.

Cyclists should make their presence known when necessary, eg. by ringing a bell, but should always be aware some people may be blind or deaf.

To avoid confusion, cyclists should pass horses on the horse's right.

4. Road positions for cyclists

Cyclists should ride in the centre of the lane on quiet roads, road narrowings, when approaching junctions and in slower moving traffic.

They should keep 0.5 metres from the kerb when on busy roads.

Cyclists can ride two abreast but allow drivers to overtake by moving into single file or stopping.

Cyclists also need to be aware of pedestrians walking into their path or vehicle users opening their door onto their path and leave a door's width when passing vehicles.

5. Overtaking

Drivers must leave at least 1.5 metres when overtaking cyclists. Travel up to 30mph while doing so, and leave more space the faster the vehicle is travelling.

Drivers must leave at least 2 metres when overtaking horses. Travel up to 10mph.

Drivers must leave at least 2 metres when overtaking people walking on the road. Travel at a low speed.

Cyclists are allowed to overtake slow-moving or stationary traffic on the right or left.

6. Cyclists at junctions - and new cyclist traffic lights explained

Cyclists must follow rule number 2.

When turning right at traffic lights, ride into the centre of the road when the lights are on green. Wait, and then turn when the lights in the new direction of travel turn green.

Cyclists have right of way when going straight ahead at junctions, but should keep aware of drivers turning across their path in case they cannot see them.

New cyclist traffic lights are being introduced at some junctions. They can show red, amber and green bicycle symbols. Sometimes they will display the green symbol despite vehicle traffic being held. This allows cyclists to move separately or before other traffic. Where these facilities don't exist at junctions cyclists should behave as if they were in a vehicle: move when traffic lights allow, and ride in the centre of the lane.

7. Drivers spotting a cyclist or horse rider at roundabouts

Drivers or motorcyclists must give way to cyclists at roundabouts, just like they would do with other vehicles. They must not attempt to overtake, and allow the cyclist to move across their path as they travel around the roundabout.

Cyclists and horse riders may stay on the left side of the roundabout even if they are travelling halfway or more around the roundabout, and this is fine. This should not cause collision if the rules above on overtaking are adhered to by drivers.

8. The Dutch Reach, and charging vehicles

Drivers and passengers leaving their car should open the door with their hand furthest from their door. This encourages people to look over their shoulder, giving them visibility of cyclists, pedestrians and other road or pavement users.

Advice on using electric charging points is added to the Highway Code for the first time. EV users should avoid creating a trip hazard when charging their cars, by parking close to a charge point, display a warning sign if possible, and leave cables neat and tidy when finished to minimise the danger to members of the public.

Are the new Highway Code rules the law?

The new rules are advisory only, so will not result in a fine or prosecution, and it won’t affect your car insurance premium if you break one of them without causing an accident (although be aware that some Highway Code rules are the law).

They are being brought in to make roads feel safer for non-drivers as the UK encourages people to travel by foot, bike or public transport in its quest to hit net-zero emissions targets, so it is wise to get on board now as road use is changing.

Roads Minister Baroness Vere said the updates bring the Highway Code "into the 21st century".

Chris Boardman, active travel commissioner for England, said: "It shouldn’t take bravery to cross a road or ride to school with kids, but sometimes it feels that way.

"These changes to the Highway Code clarify our responsibility to each other and simply reinforce what good road users already do. This refresh does more than offer guidance though, it makes our towns, cities and villages nicer places to live."

To read the Highway Code in full click here.  

NimbleFins

Our team of writers has expertise in business, car, travel, home and pet insurance as well as personal finance issues.

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