The Highway Code: Making It Fit For The Future

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The Highway Code: Making It Fit For The Future

Published 29 octubre 2020

In July 2020 The Department of Transport launched a consultation in relation to its proposed changes to the Highway Code.  The proposals encompassed three main changes, namely;

  • the introduction of “a hierarchy of road users which ensures that those road users who can do the greatest harm have the greatest responsibility to reduce the danger or threat they may pose to others”;
  • the clarification of “existing rules on pedestrian priority on pavements and that drivers and riders should give way to pedestrians crossing or waiting to cross the road”; and
  • the establishing of “guidance on safe passing distances and speeds when overtaking cyclists or horse riders, and ensuring that they have priority at junctions when travelling straight ahead”.

In submitting our response to the consultation, we have put our full support behind the stated goal of making roads safer and acknowledged that the hierarchy of road users proposed could, with appropriate modifications and adequate education and advertisement, assist in improving safety.

We have also expressed serious concerns that, in practice, the proposed hierarchy could lead to presumed liability for drivers. Not only would this be unfair to motorists, but risks making roads less safe by encouraging vulnerable road users to pay less regard for their own safety. We specifically expressed our concerns about the unintended consequences of granting pedestrians additional protection without informing them of their responsibilities as road users..

Few road users consult the Highway Code at all, let alone stay up to date with it. Making changes to the Highway Code is therefore not in itself enough to improve road safety. Within our response we argue that in order to ensure maximum impact of any safety-related revisions, government must commit to the education of all road users  through a widespread campaign.

Although the consultation professes not to be a full-scale revision of the Highway Code, we argue that forthcoming changes involving micromobility and automated vehicle technology means a full-scale revision should be considered, and the proposed hierarchy may be better incorporated in any larger reforms to the Code.

In responding to the consultation we maintain our active engagement with the transport legislative and policy development process.

To read our full response to the consultation click here.

Authors

Peter Allchorne

Peter Allchorne

Bristol

+44 (0) 117 918 2275

Michael McCabe

Michael McCabe

London - Walbrook

+44 (0) 20 7894 6315

Caroline Hall

Caroline Hall

Bristol

+44 (0)117 918 2351

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