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10 Apr 24
Have the changes made to the Highway Code made roads safer for vulnerable road users?

Silvia Ilu of the Personal Injury Team at Watkins & Gunn considers the effectiveness of changes made to the Highway Code.

On the 29th January 2022 significant changes to Highway Code took effect. The most notable change to the Code was the introduction of a hierarchy of road users in order to protect those who are most vulnerable such as pedestrians, in particular children, older adults and disabled people, cyclists, horse riders and motorcyclists. This was split into 3 new rules:

  • Rule H1 establishes that those driving vehicles that can cause the greatest harm have a greater responsibility to reduce any danger they may pose to other road users for example, drivers of large goods, passenger vehicles, vans/minibuses. However, despite this greater responsibility, it is important that all road users are aware of The Highway Code, are considerate to other road users and understand their responsibility for the safety of others.
  • Rule H2 is aimed at drivers, motorcyclists, horse drawn vehicles, horse riders and cyclists. It focuses on when one should or must give way to pedestrians.
  • Rule H3 discourages drivers and motorcyclist from cutting across cyclists, horse riders or horse drawn vehicles going ahead when turning into or out of a junction or changing direction or lane.

In addition, many of the changes clarified guidance to cyclist and their interaction with other road users. Further changes included the “Dutch Reach”, which is a new recommended technique for exiting a vehicle, by opening the door using their hand on the opposite side of the door they are opening making them turn their head to look over their shoulder and behind them. This is goes hand in hand with cyclist needing to take care when passing parked vehicles.

So have the changes been successful in making the roads safer? Although the statistics from Department of Transport show that between June 2022 – June 2023 the rate for fatal road traffic accidents involving pedestrians has declined of 7%, the casualties numbers involving pedestrians were broadly unchanged.

An RAC study from the end of January 2023 shows that 51% of drivers feel unsure whether changes to Highway Code have made the roads safer for pedestrians; only 13% of motorists with at least 25 years of driving experience believe pedestrians, cyclists and horse riders are safer now the rules are in place, compared to 37% of those with up to nine years of driving experience who feel more confident about the safety of vulnerable users; and across every UK region, at least 2-in-10 pedestrians (21%) claim drivers never give way to them at junctions. Additionally, a report by House of Commons Committee of Public Accounts Committee has stated that the changes were not effectively communicated to the public.

Therefore, it seems issues remain due to mainly to issues in communicating the changes. An RAC spokesperson has said “Most drivers probably rarely refer to the Highway Code once they’ve passed their tests, and that’s where the problem could lie,”  and believes that drivers need to take a closer look at the changes to the Code. The RAC has also urged the Government to make “another concerted effort in communicating the changes to all road users”.


This article is for general information only and does not constitute legal or professional advice. If you  have been injured following a road traffic accident contact our personal injury team for further information and bespoke specialist advice at or call 0300 1240 400. You can also text us on 88440 using the phrase “Legal Claim”.


Contact us today 0300 1240 400