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The UK driving laws are changing this week – here’s what you need to know

Post Category: Motoring news
Post date: 27/01/2022

This Saturday 29 Jan, the rules for all types of road users will be updated in The Highway Code to prioritise the safety of pedestrians, cyclists and horse riders.

Whether you’re a regular or casual road user or a professional driver like our brand ambassador (former Top Gear Stig Ben Collins), we all have a duty to stay up to date with The Highway Code. Many of the Code’s rules are legal requirements and you could be committing a criminal offence if you don’t obey them.

From Saturday, 9 sections of The Highway Code are to be updated, which will see 50 rules being added or changed. Here we cover the main changes affecting drivers of motor vehicles.

New hierarchy of road users

The biggest change is the introduction of a new ‘hierarchy of road users’. These new rules place the road users who are most at risk in the event of a collision at the top of the hierarch – whilst those in charge of vehicles will be nearer the bottom in order of level of danger they could pose to others.  

Pedestrians are to be at the top of the chain, followed by cyclists, horse riders, motorcyclists, drivers of cars, vans and large passenger or heavy vehicles. This means motorcyclists and car drivers will have more responsibility to look out for cyclists and pedestrians, while drivers of large vehicles such as heavy commercial vehicles, coaches and buses will be expected to use extra caution around all other road users.  Here’s the new structure of hierarchy:

  1. Pedestrians
  2. Cyclists
  3. Horse riders
  4. Motorcyclists
  5. Cars / taxis
  6. Vans / minibuses
  7. Large passenger vehicles / heavy goods vehicles

So what does this mean for drivers?

Essentially, pedestrians and cyclists will now get priority at junctions or when changing lanes, meaning drivers will have to wait for them to cross. Drivers will also need to stop and wait for a safe distance between cyclists at roundabouts and in slow-moving traffic, while cyclists will be told to give way to pedestrians on shared-cycle paths.  

People crossing the road at junctions

  • Other traffic must give way to people crossing or waiting to cross at a junction
  • If people have started crossing and traffic wants to turn into the road, the people crossing have priority and the traffic should give way
  • Drivers, motorcyclists and cyclists must all give way to people on a zebra crossing, or walking / cycling on a parallel crossing. (A parallel crossing is similar to a zebra crossing, but includes a cycle route alongside the black and white stripes)

Overtaking when driving or cycling

There will also be updated guidance on safe passing distances and speeds for overtaking vulnerable road users. These changes apply to drivers, motorcyclists and cyclists and are as follows:

  • leave at least 1.5 metres (5 feet) when overtaking cyclists at speeds of up to 30mph, and give them more space when overtaking at higher speeds
  • leave at least 2 meters (6.5 feet) of space when passing people riding horses or driving horse-drawn vehicles at speeds under 10 mph
  • leave at least 2 metres (6.5 feet) of space and keep to a low speed when passing people walking in the road (for example, where there’s no pavement)

Only overtake if it is safe to do so and you can meet these clearances.

What other changes are being made?

Other rules coming into force include legislation around walking, cycling and riding in shared spaces and when using roundabouts; positioning in the road when cycling; and parking, charging and leaving vehicles. Read the full list at: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/the-highway-code-8-changes-you-need-to-know-from-29-january-2022

Until our next blog, make sure you’re following us on Facebook and LinkedIn for the latest motoring and automotive news.

Stay safe and happy driving,

From all of us at Team WSG

What is The Highway Code?

The Highway Code was first published in 1931. It’s a set of guides and mandatory rules for road users in the United Kingdom containing information about road signs, road markings, vehicle markings and road safety – along with guidance on driving licence requirements and other documents, penalties, vehicle security and vehicle maintenance.

Between Jan 2020 and June 2021, 4,290 pedestrians and 4,700 cyclists were killed or seriously injured on Britain’s roads, according to figures released by the Department for Transport (DfT) and Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA).

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