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January 28, 2022

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Road safety

‘All road users must be informed of Highway Code changes’, says RoSPA

The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) has welcomed the planned updates to the Highway Code but has called for a major education campaign to ensure that all road users are aware of the new rules and advice.

Following a public consultation on a review of the Highway Code to improve road safety for people walking, cycling and riding horses, several changes have been made and come into force on 29 January 2022.

RoSPA participated in the consultation process that considered proposed updates and amendments to the Highway Code and says it is pleased that many of its observations and suggestions will be acted upon.

However, it says that an extensive education campaign is needed to make all road users aware of the new advice and regulations. It is pleased that £500,000 of Government funding will be earmarked for a THINK! campaign to raise awareness of the changes and hopes that the publicity will be wide-ranging and comprehensive.

Highway Code changes

Changes include the introduction of a hierarchy of road users, which ensures that those who can do the greatest harm have the greatest responsibility to reduce the danger or threat they may pose to others, and the clarification of existing rules on pedestrian priority on pavements.

RoSPA also endorses the guidance on cyclist priority at junctions and safe passing distances and speeds when overtaking cyclists and horse riders.

Advising users to use the “Dutch Reach” when opening their vehicle doors will be another welcome addition to the Highway Code. RoSPA was one of the original organisations that promoted and called for the introduction of the “Dutch Reach” method, which makes those exiting vehicles turn their head to look over their shoulder behind them.

RoSPA Road Safety Officer (England), Rebecca Needham, said: “RoSPA recognises that the changes encourage us to respect and consider other road users and their needs, which is very welcome.

“There may be a perception among pedestrians that they are not road users or that the Highway Code is a document only for motorists. An education campaign must make everyone aware that the Highway Code is written to provide rules and guidance for pedestrians as well as motorists.

“RoSPA also reiterates that although road user behaviour and attitudes are key in preventing accidents on Great Britain’s roads, the hierarchy that has been introduced, and the supporting rules detailed, will only improve the safety of vulnerable road users if they are supplemented by the appropriate infrastructure measures. For example, on key routes, segregated facilities should be considered to reduce the chance of conflicts between motorists and vulnerable road users, such as pedestrians and cyclists.”

Colin Paterson, Head of Marketing at DriveTech, has encouraged drivers to ensure they’re up to speed. He said: “The reality is that some drivers do not stay up to date with the Highway Code once they’ve passed their driving test. However, for many road users, the new changes to the Highway Code are long overdue. With the number of vulnerable road users increasing, so is the number of road users involved in collisions. With this in mind, it’s essential that we identify those who are vulnerable and identify how we can make roads safer for them.

“The introduction of the new risk-based hierarchy of road users will ensure that drivers, no matter what vehicle they drive, have more responsibility to be aware of pedestrians and cyclists.

“In support of the new Highway Code change, we are in the process of developing our next driving advisory on the subject of vulnerable road users and will be publishing very soon. In the meantime, these changes affect everyone, so we encourage people to read the updated code now so we can make our roads safer.”

READ: 8 things you should know about the Highway Code changes

Hierarchy of road users ‘unfair’

However, Kate Lester, CEO and founder of Diamond Logistics, has argued that the changes are unfair on HGV drivers. She said that the “revisions establish a hierarchy; putting cyclists as the second most vulnerable users at the top of the road user hierarchy, and HGVs at the bottom in eighth place.

“Whilst I think it’s appropriate for us to finally establish in law the respect that vulnerable users of the road need (i.e. cyclists, pedestrians and horse riders) the reality is that a hierarchy of road users establishes a preference for a mode of transport. I don’t think it’s fair that HGV and van drivers are polarised from road users because of the size and relative safety of their vehicles.

I acknowledge that vulnerable users need to be safeguarded, but the best thing we can do is actually have all road users appreciate the different challenges that ALL road users face. Has anyone really taken into consideration how difficult it is to be an HGV driver? The skill required to drive this huge vehicle? The challenges you have as a driver in terms of your blind spot? And how challenging it can be when, for example, a cyclist is riding on the inside of an HGV vehicle whilst turning left, which as we know is extraordinarily dangerous, leading to injury and sometimes death.”

“Hierarchy is a dangerous thing to create,” she continued. “I believe the best way for us to move forward is with real understanding of each other’s challenges.

For further guidance on the Highway Code, road safety and vehicle rules, click here.

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Steve Frazer-Brown
Steve Frazer-Brown
2 years ago

Is it just me or do others see some serious flaws in these changes? The guidance shows a diagram of a car having to come to a standstill on a main road to allow a pedestrian to cross a side road they’re turning into; how many motorists following that turning car will be expecting to have to stop on the main road? It just beggars belief that anyone would consider this a good idea!

Debbie Wheatley
Debbie Wheatley
2 years ago

I’m seriously worried about a huge flaw in these changes, which I feel will get someone (or multiples) killed. or am I really missing something? you state ‘When people are crossing or waiting at a junction, other traffic should give way’ MORE urgent clarity and thought is required!! If you are turning into a junction and you stop for pedestrians to cross, on may occasions your back end could be sticking out of the junction, a bike or vehicle behind has the potential to rear end you (or clip the back end trying to get past) not only ploughing into… Read more »

Mr David Hardman
Mr David Hardman
2 years ago

Why does it not surprise me that the other replies here have reinforced a mindset that has created the need for a change in the code in the first place! As a motorist, it is your duty to be observant and always leave sufficient space to stop when following another car. When you say Steve: “how many motorists will be expecting the car in front to stop?”, you are demonstrating your own lack of basic road sense. You should ALWAYS be expecting the car in front to stop!! Ever heard of the emergency stop?? When you say Debbie: a bike… Read more »