New Highway Code Rules Should Go Further To Protect The Vulnerable Says Lawyer

21st September 2021
Michel Carroll

Rachael Stibbe, an Associate specialising in personal injury with Kent law firm Furley Page, welcomes new rules in the Highway Code, but says they should go further to protect vulnerable road users including cyclists and horse riders.

The changes to the Highway Code came into effect in early September 2021. A consultation which concluded at the end of October 2020 generated nearly 21,000 responses and the majority were in favour of all the changes proposed, believing that they would improve safety for cyclists, pedestrians and horse riders.

Some of the changes introduced to the Highway Code include: 

  • A new Hierarchy of Road Users which ensures that those road users who can do the greatest harm have the greatest responsibility to reduce the danger or threat they may pose to other road users.
  • Clearer and stronger rights of way for pedestrians, particularly at junctions and make it clearer when pedestrians have the right of way.
  • A new requirement for drivers and riders to give way to pedestrians waiting to cross a side road or junction, or waiting to cross at a zebra crossing. Currently, drivers and riders turning into a road at a junction must only give way to pedestrians if they have started to cross
  • A requirement on drivers to give way to cyclists, including when they are turning into/out of junctions or changing direction or lane. Drivers will also be required to give way to cyclists in cycle lanes including when approaching from behind and give priority on roundabouts.

Rachael explained: “It is positive that these changes to the Highway Code focus on the most vulnerable road users and establish new clear priorities when using the road. However, the review should probably have gone further to protect some of these people who are most at risk on our roads. 

“For example, it is still not a requirement to have third party insurance when using the road as a horse rider or cyclist, which means insufficient protection is being victims involved in a road accident where a cyclist or horse rider is at fault. 

“Furthermore, it is still not a legal requirement for cyclists or horse riders over 14 years of age to wear a helmet, which would protect against head injuries in some accidents, reducing the occurrence of both injuries and claims. This is also something that should be urgently introduced, particularly given how high up cyclists are on the new hierarchy.” 

Rachael continued: “Only time will tell if the changes do reduce the number of accidents and therefore motor claims each year. If they do, then motor premiums should reduce as insurers would not be paying out so much on claims each year. 

“On the other hand, will the changes lead to disputes over blame where, say, a car driver alleges a pedestrian simply strode across a junction without looking and without taking any care for their own safety, simply assuming that avoiding them is entirely the car driver’s responsibility? 

If you have been in a road traffic accident, contact Rachael Stibbe or a member of Furley Page’s Personal Injury team for a free consultation on 01227 763939 or by emailing res@furleypage.co.uk

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