Author Bio ▼

Dr Karen McDonnell is RoSPA’s Occupational Safety and Health Policy Adviser and Head of RoSPA Scotland. She is a Past President of IOSH.
May 25, 2023

Get the SHP newsletter

Daily health and safety news, job alerts and resources

Road safety guidance

Rules of the road

Dr Karen McDonnell, RoSPA’s Occupational Health and Safety Policy Adviser and Head of RoSPA Scotland, offers a reminder on recent changes to road safety rules.

From crossing the road and learning to ride a bike as a child, through to passing your driving test and starting to drive or ride for work, understanding and applying ‘the rules of the road’ is a vital life skill.

For each journey we take, we each need to own the risk, understand it, control it and manage it holistically. We never stop learning and it’s vital to keep up-to-date with the rules.

It has been over 12 months since changes to The Highway Code came into force. The changes, which aim to improve the safety of vulnerable road users in particular, followed a public consultation which received more than 20,000 responses from the public, businesses and other organisations, including RoSPA.

Credit: Unsplash/Marius Sebastian

Rules about a new “hierarchy of road users” were added, which ensure that those that can do the greatest harm have the greatest responsibility to reduce the danger or threat they may pose to others. This principle applies most strongly to drivers of large goods and passenger vehicles, vans, minibuses, cars, taxis and motorcycles. Cyclists, horse riders and drivers of horse drawn vehicles also have a responsibility to reduce danger to pedestrians. The code emphasises that none of this detracts from the responsibility of all road users, including pedestrians, cyclists and horse riders, to have regard for their own and other road users’ safety.

There is updated guidance on cyclist priority at junctions and safe passing distances and speeds when overtaking cyclists and horse riders. Another addition is advice on using the “Dutch Reach” method when opening vehicle doors, which makes those exiting turn their head to look over their shoulder and see any approaching traffic behind them.

There is new guidance about routes and spaces which are shared by people walking, cycling and riding horses, and updated information about where cyclists should position themselves on lanes and roads.

Clarification on priorities at roundabouts is included. The new guidance says drivers and motorcyclists should not attempt to overtake cyclists within that person’s lane and allow people cycling to move across their path as they travel around the roundabout.

For the first time, the code includes guidance about using electric vehicle charging points. It says that when using one, people should park close to the charge point and avoid creating a trip hazard for pedestrians from trailing cables, display a warning sign if possible and return charging cables and connectors neatly to minimise the danger to other people and avoid creating an obstacle for other road users.

In addition, from March 25, 2022, it became illegal to use a handheld mobile phone behind the wheel for any use, including to take photos or videos, scroll through playlists or play games. The changes followed a public consultation, in which 81 per cent of respondents supported proposals to make it easier for culprits to be prosecuted.

It closes a loophole previously exploited by dangerous drivers to escape conviction. Before the change, the law previously only applied to “interactive communication” and those caught using their mobiles at the wheel were, in some cases, able to escape conviction by claiming that they weren’t using them for that specific purpose.

Now, anyone caught using their handheld device while driving could face a fine of up to £1,000 as well as six points on their licence or a full driving ban.

The Highway Code was further updated to reflect this. Rule 149 now states that drivers “must not use a hand-held mobile phone, or similar device, when driving or when supervising a learner driver, except to call 999 or 112 in a genuine emergency when it is unsafe or impractical to stop”.

The only other exception is that drivers are able to make contactless payments, for example, at drive-throughs, so long as their vehicle is stationary. They can also still use a device “hands-free” while driving if it’s secured in a cradle, allowing motorists to use their phone as a sat-nav.

They must, however, always take responsibility for their driving and can be charged with an offence if the police find them not to be in proper control of their vehicle.

RoSPA is responsible for the delivery of the Scottish Occupational Road Safety Alliance (ScORSA), an initiative relating to those who drive or ride for work. Membership is free and is open to individuals and organisations worldwide. Member benefits include a webinar series, road safety podcasts and access to information that helps manage driving risk. 

Driving for Better Safety - Free eBook download

This eBook will guide you through some of the key understandings you need to be able to manage driver safety effectively and, at the end, provide a series of free resources you can access to help you ensure your own driver safety management system is robust, legally compliant and in line with industry-accepted good practice.

Download this eBook from Driving for Better Business and SHP to cover:

  • Why do we need to manage driver safety?
  • Duty of care – a shared responsibility;
  • Setting the rules with a driving for work policy;
  • Managing driver safety;
  • Ensuring safe vehicles;
  • Safe journeys and fitness to drive;
  • Record keeping;
  • Reporting;
  • The business benefits of good practice;
  • Additional resources

Related Topics

Notify of

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments