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The changes to the Highway Code that you need to know about in 2022

This article has been prepared by Georgie Woolmer, a Solicitor in our National Serious Injury Team

Government has announced that changes to the Highway Code are due to be introduced in 2022 following parliamentary approval.  The amendments would give some road users greater protection.

Mobile phones

A tightening of the rules around the use of mobiles when driving is due to be introduced.  At present, 6 penalty points and a £200 fine can be expected if you are caught using your phone, however loopholes around taking videos, photos or scrolling through downloaded music still present issues when prosecuting drivers. New laws will see any use of handheld devices whilst driving becoming illegal and punishable by the same 6 points and £200 fine.

Hierarchy of road users

One of the areas of reform that we will see the most benefit from is the changes to the hierarchy of road users. Titled the ‘H1 Rule’, this is designed to protect the most vulnerable people on the road, including pedestrians and cyclists, and is to come into force from 29 January 2022.

Reforms will see road users who can do the greatest harm being given the greatest responsibility in an attempt to reduce the danger that they may pose to others.  Although it doesn’t place complete responsibility on larger vehicles, it goes as far as trying to ensure that the most vulnerable aren’t being put at increased risk.

Reforms include additions such as:

  • H1 Rule gives priority to cyclists, pedestrians and horse riders;
  • H2 Rule gives pedestrians priority when waiting to cross at a crossing or junction as opposed to only when they have already started to cross.  This would give priority to pedestrians at zebra crossings and junctions whilst raising the awareness of speeding.
  • H3 Rule gives drivers turning into a junction or changing lanes should not cross the path of cyclists, horse riders or horse drawn vehicles;
  • Established guidance on safe passing distances and speeds when overtaking cyclists, motorcyclists or horse risers has also been proposed. Distances of 1.5 metres and speeds of 30mph, with distances of 2 metres at speeds over 30mph, have been confirmed.  The ‘Dutch Reach’ technique will also be encouraged whereby road users are advised to open the door of their vehicle with the hand on the opposite side of their body, forcing them to look over their shoulder and check for other road users.

These amendments will be added to Rule 239 of the Highway Code and will also apply to electric car owners.  Further, electric charging cables will be encouraged to be adequately tidied so as not to present as a trip hazard (Highway Code: Major changes to be introduced in 2022 will create 'hierarchy of road users' |

The changes tie in with the Department for Transport’s £338 million pledge to boost cycling and walking across the country.  Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has explained that government is ‘determined to keep the trend’ of cycling and walking ‘going by making active travel easier and safer for everyone’ (Cyclists and walkers to get priority over drivers in Highway Code changes | The Bolton News).

Living Streets, an everyday walking charity, welcome the changes and say that it will ‘redress the balance’ of road user responsibility, with Living Streets’ interim chief executive Stephen Edwards pointing out that ‘the Highway Code currently treats children walking to school and lorry drivers as though they are equally responsible for their own or other people’s safety…people walking cause the least road danger but are often left laying the price’. 

Fitness to drive

Consultations are underway to consider expanding the rules on who can conduct medical questionnaires around renewal applications for fitness to drive.  Nurses and other medical practitioners could join registered doctors in being able to conduct checks.

Further Highway Code changes to be introduced are:

Cars and trailers

Laws are to change around who can tow a trailer, with initial amendments to legislation being pushed through in November 2021 but put on hold until. What is expected to be, January 2022 in line with the further areas of reform detailed in this article.

Currently, drivers passing their test after January 1997 must sit a car and trailer test to tow anything above 750kg.  Changes will mean that this is scrapped and all drivers will be able to tow trailers up to 3,500kg without the need for additional testing.

Pavement parking

Already illegal in London, pavement parking changes are expected to give local councils the power to issue on-the-spot fines up to £70.

Bus lanes and yellow box junctions

Councils will be given powers to issue fines for a variety of ‘moving traffic offences’ such as driving in a bus lane, stopping in a yellow box junction or ignoring no-entry signs. Only councils in London and Cardiff currently have these powers however it is expected that the same abilities will be given to other councils in England (Government to press ahead with Highway Code changes (

At Irwin Mitchell we welcome any changes that promote the safety of road users and encourage all drivers to familiarise themselves with the new rules to ensure that they are acting accordingly.

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