The Highway Code has changed. Are your drivers up to date?

Wednesday April 27, 2022

On 29th January, several major changes to the Highway Code were introduced. If this comes as a surprise, you’re not alone. A recent survey by road safety charity IAM Roadsmart found that one in five UK motorists was unaware of the new rules.

If you employ drivers, it is important to keep their road safety knowledge up to date. Here is our guide to the updated Highway Code, and how you can make sure your employees stay on the right side of the law.

What has changed?

In a press release published in January, the government outlined eight key changes for drivers. The biggest of these is the new Hierarchy of Road Users, which is split into three parts:

  • Rule H1 states that although all road users must be considerate and responsible, those operating the most potentially harmful vehicles have greater responsibility to protect more vulnerable road users. Lorry drivers must look out for motorists. Motorists must look out for cyclists, and so on. This hierarchy means the driver of the vehicle considered most dangerous has a heightened responsibility to manage their risk to others.
  • Rule H2 makes it the responsibility of all drivers, horse riders and cyclists to give way to pedestrians who are crossing the road at a junction.
  • Rule H3 says that drivers mustn’t cut across cyclists or horse riders when turning or changing lanes.

All of these rules could affect your drivers, but H1 is especially important. Whatever class of vehicle they drive, they are now likely to come under greater scrutiny in the event of an accident with a vehicle lower down the hierarchy.

The other new rules are less likely to affect you directly, unless you use cyclists in your business. However, it is still a good idea to familiarise yourself with the changes. Among other things, the updated guidelines state that:

  • Cyclists shouldn’t pass pedestrians or horses at high speed, and should use an audible warning when approaching from behind.
  • When cycling on quiet roads or in slow moving traffic, cyclists should stay close to the centre of the road to make themselves more visible.
  • People cycling in groups may now ride two abreast where it is safe to do so.
  • Cyclists may pass stationary or slow moving traffic on either side, but only with extreme care.

The government has also included guidance for charging electric vehicles. Motorists are advised to park as close as possible to charging points to avoid creating a trip hazard. They should also display a warning sign if they can.

Is it illegal to break these rules?

Often yes! Many of the rules of the Highway Code are legally binding, meaning that your drivers may be committing an offence by disobeying them. Even if one of the laws which is not legally binding is broken, failure to comply with the Highway Code can be used as evidence in court of an offence such as not exercising due care. This means that it’s best to treat the Highway Code as a set of laws, even if this isn’t technically the case throughout.

Closing the mobile phone loophole

Separately, the government has also changed the law regarding mobile phone use while driving. Previous legislation banned making calls and texting at the wheel, but didn’t cover other activities such as playing games or choosing a song. As of 25th March, this loophole has been closed.

The law now covers nearly all mobile phone use, and the government has promised to take a “zero-tolerance approach” to enforcement. The punishments are severe, so be sure your drivers understand the rules.

We’re here to help

Unsafe driving has the potential to harm both employees and the general public. This means that clear health and safety guidelines are essential. If you need help creating or implementing a driver safety policy or with training, don’t hesitate to give us a call.

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