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New year, new rules for road users

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Authored by Allianz

It seems that many drivers may be unaware of an imminent update to the Highway Code, which comes into force at the end of this week.

From 29 January, new rules will come into effect, which can be split into three main areas:

Rule 1: Hierarchy of road users.

Rule 2: Clearer and stronger priorities for pedestrians.

Rule 3: Drivers to give priority to cyclists in certain situations.

Hierarchy of road users

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The hierarchy dictates that ‘those in charge 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 they pose to others.’ According to the Department for Transport (DfT), this aims to improve safety for pedestrians, horse-riders and cyclists. The new hierarchy places road users in the following order:

  • Pedestrians
  • Cyclists
  • Horse riders
  • Motorcyclists
  • Cars/ taxis
  • Vans/ minibuses
  • Large passenger vehicles/ heavy goods vehicles

However the DfT is clear that all road users need to behave responsibly and show due care and consideration for others.

Clearer and stronger priorities for pedestrians

Changes intended to safeguard pedestrians include them taking priority at zebra crossings, on a parallel crossing or a light controlled crossing when given the green signal. Pedestrians will also now have priority at junctions, whether or not they have started to cross a road.

Drivers to give priorities to cyclists in certain situations

Drivers will be expected to give priority to cyclists at roundabouts and not attempt to overtake. Guidance also advises motorists to 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.

Additional rules

The changes also bring in rules relating to safe parking and exiting of vehicles. Passengers and drivers are encouraged to apply the “Dutch Reach” method, which is opening the door with the opposing hand. The person exiting their vehicle has to turn their body and look over their shoulder, making motorcyclists and cyclists more visible.

Safe electric vehicle charging has also been introduced, highlighting the need for drivers to park close to charge points to minimise the trip hazard from charging cables.


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Whilst the Highway Code changes include some advisory measures, many of the rules are legal requirements. This  could result in fines of up to £200 and six points for motorists who fail to follow the new rules. These penalties also apply to road users caught using their mobile phone at the wheel to take photographs, scroll through playlists and play games. Responsible use of hands-free devices, including voice-activated satellite navigation systems, remains legal.

Read more on the government’s dedicated Highway Code page.

Highway Code and smart motorways

The Highway Code ‘turned 90’ in 2021 and the AA polled drivers to gain feedback on changes they’d like to see to the Code. Nearly three quarters of drivers (72%) wanted more information on the use of smart motorways

. Recently the government has announced it will pause the rollout of new all lane running (ALR) smart motorway schemes amid safety concerns, until it’s collected five years’ worth of traffic safety data.

Upcoming rules for international road haulage

Two new rules coming into effect in early 2022 concern drivers crossing the border into Europe to transport goods as follows:

  • From 2 February 2022 anyone transporting goods between two points in the European Union (EU) will need to register the journey online.
  • From 21 May 2022, operators of light goods vehicles will need a standard international goods vehicle operator license to transport goods in the EU, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland.

There are no fees to use the EU portal to register a journey. It’s advised to check which types of journeys need to be registered online via the government website and sign up for email alerts regarding development of the portal.

Gerry Ross, Head of Commercial Motor, Allianz commented: “The Highway Code is continually evolving in line with a number of factors, from advances in vehicle technology to road safety data and statistics. We’re raising awareness as it’s vitally important for everyone to remain familiar with the Code and latest developments.”

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