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New Highway Code Rules Might Cause Conflict, Safety Charity Warns

By Stephen Turvil | November 10, 2020


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The changes to the Highway Code that might cause arguments on the road.

New Highway Code Rules Might Cause Conflict, Safety Charity Warns

Proposed Highway Code rule changes that protect cyclists, pedestrians, and horse riders might ‘increase conflict’ on roads in the United Kingdom, IAM RoadSmart’s survey of drivers implied. The ‘Hierarchy of Road Users’ is the concept that underpins the proposed rules. It ‘ensures that those road users who can do the greatest harm have the greatest responsibility to reduce the danger or threat they may pose to others’, the Department for Transport stated.

Consider Rule H2, for example. As a driver, motorcyclist, cyclist, or horse rider you should give way to ‘pedestrians crossing or waiting to cross a road into which, or from which, you are turning’, it says among other things. However, 71% of surveyed motorists claimed this would ‘increase conflict rather than reduce it’, IAM RoadSmart revealed. 57% argued it would be a ‘significant issue’.

However, some proposed rule changes had more support. To paraphrase:

  • when passing a motorcyclist or cyclist in a larger vehicle, leave a minimum distance of 1.5 metres if travelling at less than 30 mph and 2 metres if the speed is 30 mph or greater (78% of surveyed drivers agreed)
  • when passing a horse rider or a horse-drawn vehicle, leave a gap of at least 2 metres and travel at less than 15 mph (90% of motorists agreed).

New Highway Code Rules Might Cause Conflict, Safety Charity Warns Image


Opening doors

Highway Code rule changes further suggest how to reduce the risk of collision when opening a door. ‘Open the door using your hand on the opposite side to the door you are opening, e.g. use your left hand to open a door on your right’, it says. This naturally makes you turn around and see any hazards. 57% of drivers would welcome this addition to the Highway Code, IAM RoadSmart said. 

Car door


More work needed

IAM RoadSmart also argued there is more to making the roads safer than updating the Highway Code. Policy and Research Director, Neil Greig, explained:

‘Regardless of what changes are introduced, it is clear there will be a need for a huge education campaign to ensure amendments to the Highway Code are understood and adopted by the millions of existing drivers, motorcyclists, and road users in the UK. The simple truth is that most of us do not read the Highway Code unless we drive or ride professionally, or are about to take a test.’ 

'The Government has to be realistic about the impact changing a seldom read document will have on the behaviour and safety of road users’, Mr Greig added.

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