Most UK drivers don’t know new Highway Code rule changes

A new study from SEAT found that the majority of Britons (51 percent) had failed to read the Highway Code in the last five years, or had never read it at all. While major changes have been introduced since the start of 2022, new rules have continually been adopted.

With people failing to read up on the newest road rules, they may be liable to more dangerous motoring, especially when it comes to pedestrians and cyclists.

The survey also found that 48 percent of drivers were unaware of what the “hierarchy of road users” is, which was introduced last year.

The new hierarchy is designed to ensure quicker or heavier modes of travel have the greatest responsibility to reduce the danger or threat they may pose to others on the road.

In the hierarchy, pedestrians are at the top, because they lack any real protection, making them the most vulnerable in the event of an accident.

They are then followed by cyclists, horse riders and motorcyclists, and a lower tier of car and van drivers.

Bus and lorry drivers are considered to be at the “bottom” of the hierarchy as they pose the greatest risk to other motorists.

At the same time as the hierarchy was introduced, the Department for Transport unveiled new guidance for cyclists using the roads.

They were refreshed on their ability to ride in the centre of a lane on quieter roads, in slower-moving traffic and at the approach to junctions to make themselves as clear as possible.

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Bike riders were reminded that they can ride two abreast, which has always been the case and is often seen in larger groups or with children.

However, they were warned that they must be aware of drivers behind them, and if need be, allow them to overtake if it is safe to do so.

Shockingly, only 52 percent of drivers think the Highway Code is easy to understand, with almost a third of people saying it was neither easy nor difficult to understand.

Data from the Department for Transport shows a large number of pedestrian and cyclist injuries and fatalities still occur on British roads each year. 

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In the year ending June 2022, there were 35,551 cyclist and pedestrian casualties, and 514 fatalities.

Road safety experts continually warn motorists to keep up to date with the Highway Code changes to ensure they are safe on the roads.

Even small updates can have a massive impact on the safety of all road users, as evidenced by the introduction of the “Dutch Reach”.

This involves drivers and passengers using their opposite hands to open the car door, thus turning their bodies and giving them a better view out of the back windows.

When doing this, they can see if any pedestrians, cyclists or even cars are coming towards them, meaning they are less likely to injure others and themselves.

Speaking at the time of the rollout of the new Highway Code plans, Nicholas Lyes, head of roads policy at the RAC, urged drivers to check the new rules.

He said: “These major changes to the Highway Code should make the roads safer for the most vulnerable road users, in particular those walking and cycling, so are to be welcomed. 

“But it’s vitally important that all road users – especially drivers – take the time to fully understand what’s new as some of the changes are a significant departure from what’s gone before. 

“For instance, drivers turning into a road should now give way to any pedestrians waiting to cross.”

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