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Do You Know The Big Changes To Driving Laws In 2022?

The Highway Code is essential reading for all road users and this month some important changes will come into force on 29th January if approved by Parliament.

For the first time, the law will require those who can do the greatest harm to others to have a higher level of responsibility to reduce danger. The changes will create a new ‘Hierarchy of Road Users’ that places the most vulnerable road users (i.e. those road users most at risk in the event of a collision) at the top of the hierarchy. The road users most likely to be injured in the event of a collision are pedestrians, cyclists, horse riders and motorcyclists, with children, older adults and disabled people being more at risk. Those at the bottom of the hierarchy (i.e. drivers) will be expected to have greater responsibility to reduce the danger they pose to others.

There are 3 main changes that are expected to come into force:

  1. Rule H1 – A New Hierarchy of Road Users: Drivers of vehicles that can cause the greatest harm in the event of a collision bear the greatest responsibility to take care and reduce the danger to others. This principle applies most strongly to drivers of heavy goods vehicles, buses, vans, cars, taxis and motorcycles. Cyclists and horse riders also have a responsibility to look after pedestrians. The rule also stresses that all road users have responsibility to ensure their own safety, as well as that of others.
  2. Rule H2 – New priority for pedestrians at junctions: This rule is for drivers, motorbike riders, horse riders and cyclists. At a junction you should give way to pedestrians crossing or waiting to cross a road into which or from which you are turning. So if you are turning into a road and a pedestrian is waiting to cross, you should give way to them. Cyclists also have to give way to pedestrians on shared use cycle tracks.
  3. Rule H3 – New priority for cyclists when cars are turning: This next update is aimed at drivers and motorcyclists. You should not cut across cyclists, horse riders or horse drawn vehicles going ahead when you are turning into or out of a junction or changing direction or lane. Do not turn at a junction if doing so would cause a cyclist or horse rider to stop or swerve. Instead, you should stop and wait for a safe gap before turning in. This applies whether they are using a cycle lane, a cycle track, or riding ahead on the road.

The changes also introduce new advisory measures which include advice that:

  1. Drivers should open car doors using the “Dutch Reach” method, with the hand on the opposite side to the door they are opening. This makes drivers turn their heads to look over their shoulders and reduces the likelihood of hitting a passing cyclist.
  2. Drivers should leave at least 1.5 metres when overtaking cyclists at speeds of up to 30mph, and give them more space when overtaking at higher speeds.
  3. Cyclists can choose to ride in the centre of their lanes in certain circumstances, such as on quiet roads, at the approach to junctions or road narrowings. At junctions with no separate lights or cycle facilities, cyclists should position themselves in the centre of the lane.
  4. Cyclists should to take care when overtaking pedestrians and horses by slowing down and alerting them using their bell.

According to a poll carried out by The AA before Christmas, at least 2 out of 3 drivers were not aware of the proposed changes. Whilst the changes put forward generally promote good road safety practices, not all road users are going to sit down and read the amended Highway Code. The changes will be of limited benefit if the public are not aware of them so it is really important that they are now properly communicated to the wider public.

How will these changes affect road traffic claims?

Road traffic accidents are a leading cause of death and any initiatives to improve road safety and reduce the number of serious collisions are welcomed. These changes to the Highway Code focus of the most vulnerable road users with those who can do the greatest damage bearing the greatest share of responsibility in the event of a collision.

Car drivers will have a higher duty of care to keep cyclists and pedestrians safe because they are more vulnerable and an accident would be likely to have more devastating effects for them. The changes in the Highway Code will also mean that cyclists have a clearer priority on the road, so if a car driver were to hit a cyclist whilst turning into a junction, the driver is more likely to be held responsible.

The changes to the Highway Code could have significant implications for future personal injury claims involving drivers, pedestrians and cyclists and how liability (who is at fault) is apportioned. It remains to be seen whether the changes will result in tougher questions being asked of drivers involved in road traffic accidents but the changes may well affect or reduce the apportioning of blame and contributory negligence for more vulnerable road users.

However, whilst the changes mean that vehicle drivers have a higher duty of care towards cyclists and pedestrians and bear a higher share of responsibility, the new hierarchy does not remove the need for everyone to behave responsibly and all road users have a duty to follow the Highway Code and be considerate of other road users. Vulnerable road users can still be found to be wholly or partly responsible for the collision if they did not take reasonable care.

If you have been injured in a road traffic accident that was not your fault, it is important to seek advice from a specialist personal injury solicitor as soon as possible. To speak to one of our experts call 0330 822 3451 or request a call back.