The new highway code has introduced what appears to be some new rules. Most of them are just older rules but with some teeth behind them. For example any reasonable or careful driver would have been aware of pedestrians crossing as they turn in to a junction, and allowed them to cross. This is not new, but just newer wording.
Here are some of the changes that every road user should know…
Hierarchy of Road Users: Rule H1
The government’s new Hierarchy of Road Users aims to ‘tackle some of the safety issues pedestrians encounter or perceive when walking.’ So the first new rule (H1) places more responsibility on drivers of larger vehicles to take greater care of vulnerable road users.
Within the proposal, motorists whose vehicles have the potential to cause more harm in the event of a collision ‘bear the greatest responsibility to take care and reduce the danger they pose to others.’ Whether you drive a lorry, taxi, car, van or motorcycle, the new rule applies to whoever sits behind the wheel.
But this rule encompasses more than just motorists, as cyclists and horse riders have a responsibility to take care of pedestrians too. Essentially, if you are a road user, you are responsible for your own safety and others on the road.
Hierarchy of Road Users: Rule H2
Rule H2 is also for drivers, cyclists, motorbike riders and horse riders alike to pay more attention to pedestrians at junctions. If you see someone wishing to cross, ‘you should give way to pedestrians crossing or waiting to cross a road into which you are turning.’
While you might be tempted to keep going, if you spot a pedestrian waiting to cross, you are now expected to give way to them. Likewise, cyclists must give way to pedestrians on shared-use cycle tracks to ensure the safety of both you and your fellow road users.
Don’t forget! Unless pedestrians are prohibited from the area you are driving in; they are entitled to use any part of the road or track to walk on.
Hierarchy of Road Users: Rule H3
Rule H3 concerns drivers and motorcyclists when you are manoeuvering a ‘junction or changing direction or lane.’ In short, motorists should not cut across ‘cyclists, horse riders or horse-drawn vehicles going ahead’ so that you don’t cause them to swerve or be forced to stop.
Patience is the key here. Before you proceed, you should wait until there is a safe gap before making your turn.
So if the cyclist is travelling around a roundabout, is approaching or moving off of a junction or moving or waiting alongside slow-moving or stationary traffic, they have the priority.
Rule 63: Sharing space with other road users
When cycling through areas shared with pedestrians, horse riders and horse-drawn vehicles, you need to make it clear that you are present. It is recommended that you slow down where appropriate or necessary and either ring your bell or by calling out politely so they know you are in proximity.
Whenever you’re out and about on your bike, always remember that some pedestrians may be hard of hearing, deaf, blind or partially sighted – even if it’s not obvious. So take extra care when passing the elderly, disabled and children.
If you see a horse up ahead, whether you’re driving a vehicle, motorbike or bike, you need to be prepared to slow down or stop entirely. You should never pass a horse on its left, as they can quickly become startled if they haven’t clocked you’re there.
Remember to pass all pedestrians, horse riders or horse-drawn vehicles safely at the lowest speed possible, and always leave enough room as you pass by.
Tighter rules on mobile phone use
While driving and either making a phone call or texting has been under fire for a few years now, tighter restrictions are now being enforced if you are found using your mobile phone behind the wheel.
Unless there is an absolute emergency, you could find yourself with a fixed £200 fine penalty notice and six points on your license if you are found using your phone to film, snap a photo, scroll through a playlist or play a game.
As motorists, we all have a set of communication devices at our fingertips. Whether that’s your horn, revving your engine or flashing your lights, we’ve all taken part in some part of an exchange with one or all of them to get out point across to other road users. Well, it’s time to let go of everything you think you know. No more flashing to say ‘thanks’ or ‘go ahead!’ Instead, the new code states that you can ‘only flash your headlights to let other road users know that you are there.’Just like the classic aggressive horn honk or revving your engine too hard, flashing your lights has become an illegal practice so that you no longer ‘covey any other message or intimidate other road users.’
Enough is enough
These rules have been in the media a lot over the last few months, but it is important that all road users understand not only what they mean but how to follow them. By being aware, everyone can share the space available safely.