8 Changes to the Highway Code You Need To Know

Drivers have been warned of changes to the Highway Code, which come into effect from Saturday 29th January 2022. It’s important as a driver/road user that you’re aware of these changes to avoid road accidents, fines and in some serious cases, prison.

Motorists run the risk of being fined, given penalty points or disqualified from driving from breaking the rules in the Code, so it’s paramount you read and understand the new changes to the rules.

The changes hope to reduce the number of accidents on the road by giving more priority to vulnerable road users, including pedestrians and cyclists. Discover a summary of the new rules below!

1. Hierarchy of road users

The hierarchy places the road users that are most at risk in the event of a collision at the top of the hierarchy. It does not remove the need for everyone to behave responsible. Even though this is a new rule, it is still important that all road users:

- are aware of The Highway Code

- are considerate to other road users

- understand their responsibility for the safety of others

Road users that are most likely to be injured in the event of a road traffic collision are pedestrians, cyclists, horse riders and motorcyclists.

2. People crossing the road at junctions

Drivers must now give way to pedestrians crossing or waiting to cross a road that motorists are turning into.

The updated code will clarify that:

- when people are crossing or waiting to cross at a junction, other traffic should give way

- if people have begun to cross already and traffic wants to turn into the road, the people crossing have priority and the traffic should give way

- people driving, riding a motorcycle or cycling must give way to people on a zebra crossing and people walking and cycling on a parallel crossing

Drivers must not cut across cyclists, horse riders or horse drawn vehicles going ahead when going straight ahead to stop or swerve.

3. Walking, cycling or riding in shared spaces

There is new guidance in the code about routes and spaces which are shared by people walking, cycling and riding horses.

People cycling, riding a horse or driving a horse-drawn vehicle should respect the safety of people walking within these spaces. People walking should also take car in not to obstruct or danger others.

People cycling are now asked to:

- not pass people walking, riding a horse or driving a horse-drawn vehicle closely or at high speed, especially from behind

- slow down when necessary and let people walking know they are there (for example, ringing their bell)

- remember that people walking may be deaf, blind or partially sighted

- not pass a horse on the horse’s left

4. Positioning of cyclists

Cyclists should now ride in the centre of the lane to ensure they’re as clearly visible as possible in the following situations:

- on quiet roads or streets: if a faster vehicle comes up behind you as a cyclist, move to the left to enable them to overtake, you can do so safely

- in slower moving traffic: when the traffic around you starts to flow more freely, move over to the left safely so that faster vehicles can overtake

- at the approach to junctions or road narrowing where it would be unsafe for drivers to overtake you

When riding on busy roads with vehicles moving faster than the cyclist, cyclists should allow them to overtake where it is safe to do so while keeping at least 0.5 metres away from the kerb edge.

5. Overtaking when driving or cycling

Previously the rule states that drivers should give motorcyclists, cyclists and horse riders “at least as much room as you would when overtaking a car”.

Now the Highway Code has issued a guide which states that motorists should leave at least 1.5 metres when overtaking cyclists at speeds of up to 30mph, and give more space when overtaking at higher speeds.

Horse riders and horse-drawn vehicles should be passed at speeds of under 10mph and must allow at least two metres of space when doing so.

Drivers should also leave at least two metres of space and keep to a low speed when passing a pedestrian who is walking on the road.

6. People cycling at junctions

The code has been updated to clarify that when turning in and out of a side road, people cycling should give way to people walking who are crossing or waiting to cross.

Some junctions will now have a new special cycle facility, including small cycle traffic lights at eye-level height which may allow cyclists to move separately from or before other traffic. People cycling are now encouraged to use these facilities where possible to ensure their journey is safer and easier.

If there is a case where no separate facilities are available, the code recommends that people cycling should proceed as if they were driving a vehicle. This includes positioning themselves into the centre of their chosen lane, where safe to do so, making them as visible as possible and to avoid being overtaken where this would be dangerous.

7. People cycling, riding a horse and driving horse-drawn vehicles on roundabouts

People driving or riding a motorcycle should give priority to people cycling on roundabouts. The new guidance says that people driving or riding a motorcycle should:

- not attempt to overtake people cycling within that persons lane

- allow people cycling to move across their path as they travel around the roundabout

The code already states that those cycling, riding a horse and driving a horse-drawn vehicle may stay in the left-hand lane of a roundabout when they intend to continue across or around the roundabout

Guidance has been added that people driving should take extra care approaching a roundabout in ensuring they do not cut across people who are continuing around the roundabout in the left-hand lane.

8. Parking, charging and leaving vehicles

The code now recommends a new technique when leaving a vehicle. It is often known as “Dutch Reach”.

Where people driving or passengers in a vehicle are able to do so, they must exit the vehicle using the hand opposite to the door they are exiting. For example, using their left hand to open a door on their right-hand side.

This ensures that the person in the vehicle turns their head to look over their shoulder behind them, causing a less likelihood of injuring:

- people cycling or riding a motorcycle passing on the road

- people on the pavement

For the first time ever, the Highway Code has introduced a guide to using electric charging points. When using one, people should:

- park closely to the charge point and avoid creating a trip hazard for people walking from trailing cables

- display a warning sign if you can

- return charging cables and connectors neatly to minimise the danger to other people and avoid creating an obstacle for other road users

If you would like more information about these updates, please visit the GOV website here or see the full Highway Code here.