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'Accident waiting to happen’: New Highway Code changes could make roads more dangerous

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The Government announced that changes would be made to Highway Code on January 29, 2022. The new driving laws aim to make the roads safer for all who use them, creating a “hierarchy of road users” in the process.

With the new hierarchy, pedestrians and cyclists will have priority over motorists at junctions, reinforcing the safety aspect of the change.

In practice, the rules mean drivers will need to give extra room and priority to pedestrians and cyclists while driving.

By prioritising those who are the most vulnerable on and around roads, the Government is aiming to make driving safer and more environmentally friendly.

Ben Pepper, associate solicitor at Bolt Burdon Kemp, commented on the changes and how it could lead to more incidents on the road.

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“Are these new rules an accident waiting to happen?”

One of the law changes includes the introduction of the “Dutch Reach”, which is being added to protect cyclists and pedestrians.

The Dutch Reach is a practice for drivers and passengers where, rather than using the hand closest to the door to open it, they use their far hand.

By doing this it forces the body to naturally turn towards the door, allowing the driver or passengers to have a better view and see if any pedestrians or cyclists are moving towards them.

Similarly, Rules 211 to 215 set out the minimum distances which should be left between cars and cyclists.

When travelling at speeds of under 30mph, it is advised that drivers leave 1.5 metres between cyclists, horse riders, horse drawn vehicles and motorcyclists.

When travelling at speeds over 30mph, this minimum distance should be extended to two metres.

Mr Pepper added: “If the rules are to increase road safety for everyone, there needs to be a concerted campaign to raise awareness and promote them.

“We need more public information films, guidance posted on social media and newspapers urging people to check out the changes on the Government website.

“It is also concerning that while the popularity of e-scooters continues to grow rapidly, their use is only very briefly mentioned in the new code.

“The Government needs to correct this and account for where e-scooters fit into the new hierarchy.”

He added that the changes are no use if drivers are unaware of their new responsibilities, and can underline the overall challenge of improving road safety.

Highway Code changes were previously made in September 2021.

These changes looked at the overall safety of drivers and motorcyclists including Rule 91 which states that motorists need to get sufficient sleep before a journey.



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