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The updated Highway Code: Where are we now?

Alarmingly, according to a survey commissioned by the AA, 60% of UK motorists have not read the recent updates to the Highway Code. In a survey involving 13,327 members, 1,118 drivers said that they were completely unaware of the changes. Meanwhile, 6,972 members were aware that there had been changes but had not read the detail.

The Highway Code applies to all road users including pedestrians, horse riders and cyclists, as well as motorcyclists and drivers. Many of the rules in the code are legal requirements, and if you disobey these rules you are committing a criminal offence. You may be fined, given penalty points on your licence or be disqualified from driving.

In the most serious cases you may be sent to prison. Although failure to comply with the other rules of the code will not, in itself, cause a person to be prosecuted, the Highway Code may be used in evidence in any court proceedings under the Traffic Acts to establish liability. This includes rules which use advisory wording.

We wrote about the changes previously. The most significant of these, made in January 2022, was that pedestrians, cyclists, and horse riders were given greater priority on the road. The new hierarchy of road users places those who can do the greatest harm with the greatest responsibility to reduce danger to others. This is designed to protect the most vulnerable people on our roads.

The new rules place emphasis on this hierarchy applying most strongly to drivers of heavy goods vehicles and passenger vehicles, vans, minibuses, cars and motorcycles. Likewise, cyclists, horse drivers and drivers of horse-drawn vehicles have a greater responsibility to reduce dangers posed to pedestrians.

Tim Rankin, managing director of AA Accident Assist, said the group was "concerned that so many still haven't read the rules”. He added: "While we are pleased that many of the changes can be successfully recalled, we'd like more drivers to know the rules outright so they can keep themselves and others safe. It is in everyone's interest to take every measure that helps avoid collisions and remove confusion from the road, so we urge those that still haven't read the updated code to do so as soon as possible”.

It's clearly important that awareness of the new rules is raised and also that enforcement follows to ensure that the changes are effective.

Find out more about our expertise in supporting people and families following collisions on the roads at our dedicated road traffic accidents section. Alternatively, to speak to an expert call 0370 1500 100.

Highway Code: 61% of drivers have not read new guidance, AA survey suggests”