AA warns of ‘dangerous situations’ and ‘confusion’ after poll finds majority of motorists not ready for incoming revisions
A number of proposed changes to the Highway Code due to come into effect in January that establish a “hierarchy of road users” and give pedestrians and cyclists priority over drivers at junctions are facing criticism after an AA survey found that just one-third of the public are aware of them.
Pending parliamentary approval, the modifications will be in place from 29 January 2022 and introduce the new system to give priority to those deemed to be most vulnerable to harm on Britain’s roads.
Pedestrians are considered most at risk and ranked first, followed by cyclists, horse riders, motorcyclists, cars and taxis and vans and minibuses, with larger buses and lorries placed last.
Further revisions to the Code seek to clarify who has priority when a pedestrian is seeking to cross a road or use a zebra crossing, the size of gap needed before it becomes a appropriate for a driver to cut across a group of cyclists and to establish cyclists’ right to ride in the middle of quiet roads before pulling over to the left when joined by additional traffic.
The changes were laid before Parliament as a statutory instrument, which means that they will come into force after 28 sitting days – in this instance, 29 January – if no MP raises an objection in the interim.
But a survey of 13,500 drivers carried out by the roadside assistance organisation has since found that two-thirds of respondents were unaware of the incoming changes, suggesting that confusion and even accidents could result should the new rules be given the go ahead.
Edmund King, president of the AA, told The Daily Mail: “With such fundamental changes to the Highway Code taking place to make our roads safer, we need to ensure road users understand the new rules ahead of time.
“Getting the message out now would help avoid dangerous situations and remove any confusion on the roads before the new rules are adopted.”
Nicholas Lyes, the RAC’s roads policy chief, commented: “A concerted effort must now be made to communicate the changes to drivers because as we know, many do not read the Highway Code for long periods after passing their test.
“Ultimately, the aim should be to ensure that everyone using the roads understands the new rules, because any confusion is likely to lead to avoidable collisions.”
Responding to those concerns, a spokesman for the Department for Transport (DfT) said: “The proposed upcoming changes to the Highway Code will improve safety for cyclists, pedestrians and horse riders and were widely reported when they were announced earlier this year.”
Other rules for road users to be aware of from next year include tougher laws surrounding the use of phones behind the wheel, closing a loophole in the current ban on using handsets to make a call that does not cover social media scrolling or shooting photographs and video.
According to the DfT, the new law, which could see drivers fined £200 and hit with six penalty points on their licence, tightens the definition of what constitutes driving to be “more precise” and include idling time during traffic jams.
Hands-free devices will still be allowed, however, so long as the phone is held in a cradle attached to the dashboard or windscreen and drivers will still be allowed to use their devices to make contactless payments at toll booths and drive-in restaurants.