New priorities in the Highway Code

On 29th January, the Highway Code underwent a significant change. However, questions have been raised as to the extent to which the public are actually aware of this. The Highway Code is the document that forms the basis for how everyone uses roads, whether driving, walking, cycling, on horseback or travelling by mobility scooter.

The Code has introduced a new hierarchy of road users: “Everyone suffers when road collisions occur, whether they are physically injured or not. But those in charge of vehicles that can cause the greatest harm in the event of a collision bear the greatest responsibility to take care and reduce the danger they pose to others.”

The new Code gives pedestrians priority to cross a road into which a vehicle is trying to turn at a junction.
It is often difficult for pedestrians to tell whether a vehicle is intending to turn or is giving way, because drivers do not always indicate with their signals.

Under the new Highway Code, this should not be an issue because pedestrians should be able to assume that all cars are giving way to them as they cross the road.

This will have a particular impact on some of the junctions within town. The junction on Glapthorn Road at Blackpot Lane and Milton Road can be dangerous for pedestrians if cars are not clear about their intended direction. Now cars need to give way to pedestrians even if they are not at the zebra crossing.

This also means that cars should give way to pedestrians wishing to cross the road at the War Memorial. It should also make life easier for pedestrians walking down Glapthorn Road as they navigate the junctions with Cotterstock Road, Springfield Road and New Road.

The changes have also amended the rules surrounding cycling. These changes have been very controversial and faced calls from drivers to be scrapped, just days after being introduced.

The revised Highway Code advises cyclists to use the centre of their lane “on quieter roads, in slower moving traffic and at the approach to junctions or road narrowings”. The intention is to make cyclists more visible on the road. Drivers fear that this will have the opposite effect, and will cause more accidents than it prevents.

The Highway Code is not in itself a legal document, however road users are expected to follow the rules. It can be used to determine liability in the event of court proceedings, and road users who do not follow it can be pursued for offences such as dangerous driving.

Robert Foskett
June 2022