Irwin Mitchell Calls For Awareness Campaign To Avoid Misunderstanding Over The New Rules
Specialist lawyers at Irwin Mitchell are calling for a national awareness campaign to make planned changes to the Highway Code a success.
The national law firm, which supports thousands of people injured on the nation’s roads, has submitted evidence to the Government’s consultation on the Highway Code.
While the legal experts have welcomed the proposals, the firm has pointed out the need to avoid ambiguity in the new wording. It has raised concerns that some changes would not be practical for all road configurations, representing a real danger for all road users.
Launched in July 2020, the Government’s Highway Code consultation sought views on a number of updates to the Highway Code, which included three main changes aimed at improving safety for vulnerable road users, including children, people with disabilities, cyclists and horse riders.
The proposals include introducing a hierarchy of road users (rule H1), to ensure those who can do the most harm bear the greatest responsibility. They also aim to clarify pedestrian priority on pavements (rule H2), suggesting drivers and riders give way to those crossing or waiting to cross the road.
The third main change would establish safe passing distances and speeds when overtaking cyclists and horses, and ensure they have priority at junctions when travelling straight ahead (H3).
In submitting evidence to the consultation, Irwin Mitchell points out that informing pedestrians that traffic must give way to them (rule H3) risked giving a false sense of security. The concern is there will be situations where it would be dangerous for traffic to slow or stop to give way, such as when turning from a side road into a major road with a higher speed limit.
Having seen many clients injured as a result of drivers failing to check before opening doors, the law firm specifically welcomed the introduction of using the hand furthest from a vehicle door to open it. Known as the ‘Dutch Reach’, the technique forces people to turn their body, which in turn, can help spot approaching cyclists.
It was also pointed out that new changes need clarity, so ‘you must give way’ would be less ambiguous than the current ‘you should give way’.
Irwin Mitchell is an associate member of the All Party Parliamentary Group for Cycling and Walking.
Expert Opinion“Given we represent people on a daily basis whose lives have been shattered as a result of death or serious injury on our roads, we welcome the proposed changes as a welcome revision to assist vulnerable road users.
“However, ambiguity must be avoided when introducing such changes, or there is a real risk of misunderstandings that could lead to an increase in death or serious injuries, particularly surrounding changes to road user priorities at junctions.
“There would need to be a highly publicised nationwide education and awareness campaign on the changes, coupled with ensuring consistency in terminology across all rules in the Highway Code.
“Ensuring clarity and removing ambiguity will give all road users clear rules to follow and when accidents do happen, assist those impacted who will need to rely on the revised rules in criminal and civil legal proceedings.” Peter Lorence - Senior Associate Solicitor
Specialist equestrian lawyer at Irwin Mitchell, Cathryn Godfrey, said: “The consultation represents an important step in further improving road safety and it is good to see that in considering vulnerable groups on the roads, horses and riders are not forgotten. It is important to emphasise that the rules on speed and distance when passing cyclists also apply to horse riders.”