Fresh rules are coming in from 29th January 2022.
Many of the rules in the code are legal requirements, and if you disobey these rules, you are committing a criminal offence and you may be fined, given penalty points on your licence or be disqualified from driving, in the most serious cases you may be sent to prison.
Rule H1. Hierarchy of road users
The biggest shake-up is that road users have been split into hierarchies. Road users with the potential to cause the most harm – such as those driving big vehicles – have more responsibility to reduce the threat posed to others. According to the rules, pedestrians – with particular emphasis on children, older adults and disabled people – are identified as “the most likely to be injured in the event of a collision”. As a result, the law will place more responsibility on drivers to watch out for cyclists, pedestrians or horse riders.
Figures released by the Department for Transport (DfT) show 4,290 pedestrians and 4,700 cyclists were killed or seriously injured on Britain’s roads from 2020 to June 2021.
Pedestrians sit at the top of the hierarchy followed by cyclists, horse riders, motorcyclists, cars, vans and large passenger or heavy goods vehicles.
The new rules place emphasis on this hierarchy applying most strongly to drivers of heavy goods vehicles and passenger vehicles, vans, minibuses, cars and motorcycles.
Likewise, cyclists, horse riders and drivers of a horse drawn vehicle have a greater responsibility to reduce dangers posed to pedestrians.
Rule H2. Priorities for pedestrians
One change that should be highlighted in particular is pedestrian priorities at junctions. This means, when drivers, motorcyclists, horse riders and cyclists are looking to turn into a road and a pedestrian is waiting to cross, you are expected to give way. This is a change to the current situation that road users should only give way to pedestrians who have started to cross the road into which they are turning.
In addition, cyclists should give way to pedestrians on shared-cycle tracks.
Rule H3. Drivers to give priority to cyclists in certain situations e.g., on a roundabout
The new Rule is designed to protect cyclists from drivers failing to check for cyclists, motorcyclists’ cyclists, horse riders or horse drawn vehicles. It requires that when turning into or out of a junction, drivers should not cut across the path of any other road user. This includes where there is cycle lane at the nearside. Drivers are also encouraged to stop and wait for a safe distance between cyclists at roundabouts or during slow-moving traffic.
There are many deaths and life-changing injuries, each year, as a result of vehicles turning across the paths of cyclists at junctions.
Road users are expected to stop and wait for a safe gap before beginning their manoeuvre. Drivers are tasked with not turning at junctions if it would cause someone going straight ahead to stop or swerve.
What other driving laws are changing in 2022?
Safe Passing Distances. Close passing represents a serious danger to the most vulnerable road users. Rule 163 now prescribes safe passing distances for when overtaking cyclists, motorcyclists, horse riders and horse drawn vehicles. This includes guiding on at least a 1.5 metre space when overtaking a cyclist at speeds of up to 30mph. More space is expected when overtaking at speeds in excess of 30mph. If when passing a pedestrian who is walking in the road, drivers are expected to allow at least 2 metres of space and to maintain a low speed. Extra care should be taken in poor weather.
The guidance also sets out that drivers should not overtake if it is unsafe or not possible to meet the clearances set out.
In addition to setting out safe passing distances, the new Rule 72 establishes the right for cyclists to ride in the centre of their lane, to ensure that they remain visible, cyclists are only expected to move to the left to allow faster vehicles to overtake when it is safe to do so.
Rule 213 has also been changed to confirm that on narrow sections of roads, horse riders may ride in the centre of the lane and drivers should allow them to do so for their own safety, to ensure they can see and be seen.
Safely passing parked vehicles and the ‘Dutch Reach’
When cycling by parked vehicles, the risk of doors being opened into a cyclist’s path is a real danger and a common cause of collision. Previously, the Highway Code had warned only for cyclists to watch out for doors being opened. Rule 67 has now been revised to provide guidance on the safe distance to pass parked vehicles; it now suggests leaving a door’s width or one metre when doing so.
For those opening the doors of parked vehicles, Rule 239 has also been updated to include what is often known as the ‘Dutch Reach’. The Dutch reach means that when you can do so, you should open your vehicle door using your hand on the opposite side to the door you are opening.
For example, if you are in the right-hand seat, you should use your left hand to open the door. Doing this forces you to turn your body and your head, better enabling you to check over your shoulder and your blind spot.